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Full text of "If - Worlds Of Science Fiction v08n02 (1958-02.Quinn)(AKv1.0)"

Lti-M 



WORLDS OF 



SCIENCE FICTION 



IN THIS ISSUE 



Feeling of Power Out from the Sun 

ISAAC ASIMOV ARTHUR C. CLARKE 



o 

-I 



ASSASSIN 

A tense novelette ab( 
strange invasio 

J. F. 



CO 

n 

m 

z 

—I 





READY 

January 12! 

THE SECOND WORLD 



o/ IF 



NINE GREAT NOVELETTES from the first six years of 
IF Magazine! Like T/ie f\r%t World of IF, which re- 
ceived such enthusiastic response from science fic- 
tion lovers all over America, here is a volume of 
exceptional interest — nine long stories by Charles 
Beaumont, James Blish, Phillip K. Dick, Gordon 
Dickson, Charles L. Fontenay, James E. Gunn, 
Raymond F. Jones, Bryce Walton and Robert 
F. Young — devoted to a wide diversity of 
science fiction entertainment. The printing 
will again be a small one, so ask your news 
dealer right now to save you a copy. Or, 
if you prefer, send fifty cents to IF Mag- 
azine, Kingston, New York, and a copy 
will be mailed to you upon publication, 
which shall be Jonuory 12th. 



r 





1'.''"' WJ/VJOt..' .%•'«, 




>VORLDS OF 

SCIENCE FICTION 

FEBRUARY 1958 
All Stories New and Complete 

Editor: JAMES L. QUINN 

Assist. Editor: EVE WULFF 



NOVELETTES 

ASSASSIN by J. F. Bone 12 

THE BARBARIANS by John Sentry 58 

SHORT STORIES 

THE FEELING OF POWER by Isaac Asimov 4 

THE HERO by Elaine Wilber 33 

CONTAMINATION CREW by Alan E. Nourse 44 
OUT FROM THE SUN by Arthur C. Clarke ' 77 

SECURITY RISK by Ed M. Clinton, Jr. 82 
THE STANDARDIZED MAN by Stephen Bartholomew 92 

FEET OF CLAY by Phillip Hosklns 100 

FEATURES 

EDITOR'S REPORT 2 

WHAT'S YOUR SCIENCE l,Q.? 43 

SCIENCE BRIEFS 116 

HUE AND CRY 118 

COVER 

A Scene from "Assassin" by Mel Hunter 

llllllljjlllllllljlllinilllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllillllllllllllllllllllllllllllll^ 

IF is published bi-monthly by Quinn Publishing Co. Inc. Vol. 8, No. 2. 
Copyright 1957 by Ouinn Publishing Co., Inc. Office of publication 8 
Lord Street, BuffaloT N.Y. Entered as Second Class Matter at Post 
Office, Buffalo, N.Y. Subscription $,^.50 for 12 issues in U.S. and Posses- 
sions; Canada $4 for 12 issues; elsewhere $4.50. All stories are fiction; 
any similarity to actual persons is coincidental. Not responsible for unso- 
licited artwork or manuscripts. 35c a copy. Printed in U.S.A. 

EDITORIAL AND BUSINESS OFFICES, KINGSTON, NEW YORK 

Next (April) issue on sale February 12th 



iiiiniiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinuyiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiu^^^^^^^^ 



Editor's 

REPORT 



Mail has been piling up nicely on 
the editorial desk in response to our 
request for information about the 
readers. Judging by a cross section, 
(this means picking letters out of 
the heap at random) we've got 
readers from 12 to 74 — all with 
stars in their eyes. Fields of en- 
deavor now include musicians, 
salesmen, lab technicians, pharma- 
cists, test pilots, actors and one 
prisoner, who writes that he "likes 
to escape" with science fiction! To 
find out why people read science 
fiction read some of their letters in 
Hue and Cry . . . and if you haven't 
already done it, why not drop us a 
vital statistic or two to help swell 
the mail? 

Following through on our practice 
of letting readers in on just what 
authors do, we corralled the "mas- 
ter" who's the lead-off man in this 
issue. Seems as though all people 
("without exception", he claims) 
who meet Isaac Asimov for the first 
time are startled to find him clean 
shaven (except, of course for five 



o'clock shadow) . For some reason 
an immediate picture of a patriar- 
chal type with a long white beard 
(or at any rate a dignified Van 
Dyke) rises unbidden when his 
name is mentioned. Isaac has been 
writing science fiction for 20 years; 
but insists he started as a teen-ager 
— he's still not that old. The whole 
thing is even more demoralizing 
when some great muscular hunk of 
humanity boasts that he was born 
in the same year that Asimov's first 
story appeared! Of course, the re- 
sounding title of Associate Profes- 
sor of Biochemistry at Boston Uni- 
versity, plus the fact that the man 
has several learned textbooks to his 
credit, may have a great deal to do 
with this modern fable of "old man 
Asimov". 

A recent study concerning the ag- 
gressive tendencies of authors held 
at U.C.L.A., showed that there was 
a definite correlation between per- 
sonal aggressiveness and the inten- 
sity of violence in the fiction these 
men wrote. The least aggressive 
people wrote the most consistently 
violent tales, while those with ag- 
gressive natures were much more 
variable. Interesting sidelight on 
the study was the fact that authors 
tended to write of more intense 
violence under stress from financial 
problems! 

Hydroponic tanks for feeding the 
crew of a spaceship may be out- 
moded before the first one is ever 
installed! Scientists have discovered 
that green plants secrete a deadly 
carbon monoxide gas when in- 
jured. And since no one knows just 



what in space could or would cause 
such "injury", researchers feel that 
plants used as a source of food and 
oxygen during space flight might 
poison the spaceship's entire air 
supply. 

By this time the world is aware 
that the Russians rushed their satel- 
lite into space not so much for 
benefit of the IGY as for propa- 
ganda. Now the second '"sputnik" 
is about due, and the Soviets prom- 
ise it will carry much more instru- 
mentation than "sputnik the first". 
The second moon will rise to 560 
miles and speed at 18,000 miles per 
hour, same as the first, but will 
weigh 400 or 500 pounds, accord- 
ing to Dr. Blagonravov, who helped 
develop the Russian satellite pro- 
gram. It will broadcast intensity of 
cosmic rays, temperature and air 
density, whereas the first "moon" 
broadcast bnly temperature. Wheth- 
er "sputnik the second" gets up 
there before the first American sat- 
ellite does or not, we'll hold that 
Vanguard sends up a better 
"mouse trap", and if you are look- 
ing for real estate on the moon, 
don't get it from the Ruskies. 

The first motion picture visualiza- 
tion of Project Vanguard, the 
launching and tracking of the 
first American satellite, is being dis- 
tributed. The four minute ani- 
mated film is titled A Moon is Born 
and is shown in color and black 
and white. It includes the depiction 
of the Minitrack and Moonwatch 
phases of the project as well as the 
use of an IBM computer for the 
prediction of the moon's future po- 



sitions. If your club, civic group or 
school is interested in showing this 
film, drop us a line and we'll send 
you the name and address of the 
distributor. 

We've had so many blasts, both pro 
and con, about our quiz, that we 
decided to explain our stand. Big- 
gest noise against it comes from 
those who feel that the page could 
be used for more stories. Those in 
favor, feel they're learning some- 
thing — and to a man they're pretty 
proud when they come up with a 
good score. Now, a good one page 
story is as rare as the Penny Black 
of stamp collecting; and padding a 
story so it will run over for an extra 
page is against all our editorial in- 
stincts. So why not give people a 
chance to test themselves on what 
they know about the world around 
them? 

Last minute notes. . . . The by- 
line John Sentry on this issue's 
The Barbarians is a pen name for 
what well known science-fiction 
writer? . . . Don't forget The Sec- 
ond World of IF! If you haven't 
ordered one already, hang around 
your newsstand and grab it the 
minute it arrives. One hundred and 
sixty pages of solid entertainment 
without a single "wasted" page . . . 
Look for an exciting new yarn by 
Frank Riley called A Question of 
Identity in our April issue — an en- 
tirely new theme in science fiction 
and definitely one to which we can 
look forward. . . . And while we're 
looking ahead, by all means look 
for Arthur C. Clarke's newest, The 
Songs of Distant Earth, in the June 
issue. — ekw 




Illustrated by Virgil Finlay 



THE FEELING 



Graphitics was a startMngly new idea! 



So revolutionary, in fact, it rocked the top army brass. 



Imagine computing — without a computer! 



JEHAN SHUMAN WAS used to 
dealing with the men in author- 
ity on long-embattled Earth. He 
was only a civilian but he originated 
programming patterns that resulted 
in self-directing war computers of 
the highest sort. Generals conse- 
quently listened to him. Heads of 
congressional committees, too. 

There was one of each in the 
special lounge of New Pentagon. 
General Weider was space-burnt 
and had a small mouth puckered 
almost into a cypher. Congressman 
Brant was smooth-cheeked and 
clear-eyed. He smoked Denebian 
tobacco with the air of one whose 
patriotism was so notorious, he 
could be allowed such liberties. 

Shuman. tall, distinguished and 



programmer-first-class, faced them 
fearlessly. 

He said, "This, gentlemen, is 
Ladislas Aub." 

"The one with the unusual gift 
that you discovered quite by acci- 
dent," said Congressman Brant, 
placidly. "Ah." He inspected the 
little man with the egg-bald head 
with amiable curiosity. 

The little man, in return, twisted 
the fingers of his hands anxiously. 
He had never been near such great 
men before. He was only an aging 
low-grade Technician who had long 
ago failed all tests designed to 
smoke out the gifted ones among 
mankind and had settled into the 
iTjt of unskilled labor. There was 
just this hobby of his that the great 



OF POWER 



BY ISAAC ASIMOV 



programmer had found out about 
and was now making such a fright- 
ening fuss over. 

General Weider said, "I find this 
atmosphere of mystery childish." 

''You won't in a moment," said 
Shuman. "This is not something we 
can leak to the first-comer. — Aub!" 
There was something imperative 
about his manner of biting off that 
one-syllable name, but then he was 
a great Programmer speaking to a 
mere Technician. "Aub! How 
much is nine times seven?" 

Aub hesitated a moment, his 
pale eyes glimmered with a feeble 
anxiety, "Sixty-three," he said. 

Congressman Brant lifted his 
eyebrows, "Is that right?" 

"Check it for yourself, congress- 
man," 

The congressman took out his 
pocket computer, nudged the 
milled edges twice, looked at its face 
as it lay there in the palm of his 
hand and put it back. He said, "Is 
this the gift you brought us here to 
demonstrate. An illusionist?" 

"More than that, sir. Aub has 
memorized a few operations and 
with them he computes on paper." 

"A paper computer?" said the 
general. He looked pained. 

"No, sir," said Shuman, patient- 
ly. "Not a paper computer. Simply 
a sheet of paper. General, would 
vou be so kind as to suggest a num- 
ber?" 

"Seventeen," said the general, 

"And you, congressman?" 

"Twenty-three." 

"Good! Aub, multiply those 
numbers and please show the gen- 
tlemen your manner of doing it." 

"Yes, programmer," said Aub, 



ducking his head. He fished a small 
pad out of one shirt pocket and an 
artist's hairline stylus out the 
other." His forehead corrugated as 
he made painstaking marks on the 
paper. 

General Weider interrupted him 
sharply. "Let's see that." 

Aub passed him the paper, and 
Weider said, "Well, it looks like the 
figure seventeen," 

Congressman Brant nodded and 
said, "So it does, but I suppose any- 
one can copy figures off a computer. 
I think I could make a passable 
seventeen myself, even without 
practice." 

"If you will let Aub continue, 
gentlemen," said Shuman without 
heat, 

Aub continued, his hand trem- 
bling a little. Finally, he said in a 
low voice, "The answer is three 
hundred and ninety-one." 

Congressman Brant took out his 
computer a second time and flicked 
it, "By Godfrey, so it is. How did 
he guess?" 

"No guess, congressman," said 
Shuman. "He computed tliat result. 
He did it on this sheet of paper," 

"Humbug," said the general, im- 
patiently, "A computer is one thing 
and marks on paper are another," 

"Explain, Aub," said Shuman, 

"Yes, programmer. — Well, gen- 
tlemen, I write down seventeen and 
just underneath it, I write twenty- 
three. Next, I say to myself: seven 
times three — " 

The congressman interrupted 
smoothly, "Now, Aub, the problem 
is seventeen times twenty- three." 

"Yes, I know," said the little 
technician earnestly, "but I start by 

ISAAC ASIMOV 



saying seven times three because 
that's the way it works. Now seven 
times three is twenty-one." 

"And how do you know that?" 
asked the congressman. 

"I just remember it. It's always 
twenty-one on the computer. I've 
checked it any number of times." 

"That doesn't mean it always 
will be, though, does it?" said the 
congressman. 

"Maybe not," stammered Aub. 
"I'm not a mathematician. But I 
always get the right answers, you 
see." 

"Go on." 

"Seven times three is twenty-one, 
so I write down twenty-one. Then 
one times three is three, so I write 
down a three under the two of 
twenty-one." 

"Why under the two?" asked 
Congressman Brant at once. 

"Because — " Aub looked help- 
lessly at his superior for support. 
"It's difficult to explain." 

Shuman said, "If you will accept 
his work for the moment, we can 
leave the details for the mathema- 
ticians." 

Brant subsided. 

Aub said, "Three plus two makes 
five, you see, so the twenty-one be- 
comes a fifty-one. Now you let that 
go for a while and start fresh. You 
multiply seven and two, that's four- 
teen, and one and two, that's two. 
Put them down like this and it adds 
up to thirty-four. Now if you put 
the thirty-four under the fifty-one 
this way and add them, you get 
three hundred and ninety-one and 
that's the answer." 

There was an instant's silence 
and then General Weider said, "I 

THE FEELING OF POWER 



don't believe it. He goes through 
this rigmarole and makes up num- 
bers and multiplies and adds them 
this way and that, but I don't be- 
lieve it. It's too complicated to be 
anything but hornswoggling." 

"Oh, no, sir," said Aub in a 
sweat. "It only seems complicated 
because you're not used to it. 
Actually, the rules are quite simple 
and will work for any numbers." 

"Any numbers, eh?" said the 
general. "Come then." He took out 
his own computer (a severely-styled 
GI model) and struck it at random. 
Make a five, seven, three, eight on 
the paper. That's five thousand 
seven hundred and thirty-eight." 

"Yes, sir," said Aub, taking a 
new sheet of paper. 

"Now," (more punching of his 
computer), "seven two three nine. 
Seven thousand two hundred and 
thirty-nine." 

"Yes, sir." "^ 

"And now multiply those two." 

"It will take some time," qua- 
vered Aub. 

"Take the time," said the gen- 
eral. 

"Go ahead, Aub," said Shuman, 
crisply. 

Aub set to work, bending low. He 
took another sheet of paper and 
another. The general took out his 
watch finally and stared at it. "Arc 
you through with your magic-mak- 
ing, technician?" 

"I'm almost done, sir. Here it 
is, sir. Forty-one million, five hun- 
dred and thirty-seven thousand, 
three hundred and eight-two." He 
showed the scrawled figures of the 
result. 

General Weider smiled bitterly. 



He pushed the multiplication con- 
tact on his computer and let the 
numbers whirl to a halt. And then 
he stared and said in a surprised 
squeak. "Great Galaxy, the fella's 
right." 

The President of the Terrestrial 
Federation had grown haggard in 
office and, in private, he allowed a 
look of settled melancholy to ap- 
pear on his sensitive features. The 
Denebian war, after its early start 
of vast movement and great popu- 
larity, had trickled down into a 
sordid matter of maneuver and 
counter-maneuver, with discontent 
rising steadily on Earth. Possibly, 
it was rising on Deneb, too. 

And now Congressman Brant, 
head of the important Committee 
on Military Appropriations was 
cheerfully and smoothly spending 
his half-hour appointment spouting 
nonsense. 

"Computing without a com- 
puter," said the president, impa- 
tiently, "is a contradiction in 
terms." 

"Computing," said the congress- 
man, "is only a system for handling 
data. A machine might do it, or 
the human brain might. Let me 
give you an example." And, using 
the new skills he had learned, he 
worked out sums and products until 
the president, despite himself, grew 
interested. 

"Does this always work?" 

"Every time, Mr. President. It is 
foolproof." 

"Is it hard to learn?" 

"It took me a week to get the 
real hang of it. I think you could 
do better." 



"Well," said the president, con- 
sidering, "it's an interesting parlor 
game, but what is the use of it?" 

"What is the use of a new-born 
baby, Mr. President? At the mo- 
ment, there is no use, but don't you 
see that this points the way toward 
liberation from the machine. Con- 
sider, Mr. President," the congress- 
man rose and his deep voice auto- 
matically took on some of the ca- 
dences he used in public debate, 
"that the Denebian was is a war of 
computer against computer. Their 
computers forge an impenetrable 
shield of counter-missiles against 
our missiles, and ours forge one 
against theirs. If we advance the 
efficiency of our computers, so do 
they theirs, and for five years a 
precarious and profitless balance 
has existed. 

"Now we have in our hands a 
method for going beyond the com- 
puter, leap-frogging it, passing 
through it. We will combine the 
mechanics of computation with hu- 
man thought; we will have the 
equivalent of intelligent computers ; 
billions of them. I can't predict 
what the consequences will be in 
detail but they will be incalculable. 
And if Deneb beats us to the punch, 
they may be catastrophic." 

The president said, troubled, 
"What would you have me do?" 

"Put the power of the adminis- 
tration behind the establishment of 
a secret project on human computa- 
tion. Call it Project Number, if you 
like. I can vouch for my committee, 
but I will need the administration 
behind me." 

"But how far can human com- 
putation go?" 

ISAAC ASIMOV 



"There is no limit. According to 
Programmer Shuman, who first in- 
troduced me to this discovery — " 

"I've heard of Shuman, of 
course." 

"Yes. Well, Dr. Shuman tells me 
that in theory there is nothing the 
computer can do that the human 
mind can not do. The computer 
merely takes a finite amount of data 
and performs a finite number of 
operations upon them. The human 
mind can duplicate the process." 

The president considered that. 
He said, "If Shuman says this, I 
am inclined to believe him, — in 
theory. But, in practice, how can 
anyone know how a computer 
works?" 

Brant laughed genially. "Well, 
Mr. President, I asked the same 
question. It seems that at one time, 
computers were designed directly 
by human beings. Those were sim- 
ple computers of course; this being 
before the time of the rational use 
of computers to design more ad- 
vanced computers had been es- 
tablished." 

"Yes, yes. Go on." 

"Technician Aub apparently 
had, as his hobby, the reconstruc- 
tion of some of these ancient de- 
vices and in so doing he studied the 
details of their workings and found 
he could imitate them. The mul- 
tiplication I just performed for you 
is an imitation of the workings of 
a computer." 

"Amazing!" 

The congressman coughed gen- 
tly, "If I may make another point, 
Mr. President — The further we 
can develop this thing, the more we 
can divert our Federal effort from 

THE FEELING OF POWER 



computer production and computer 
maintenance. As the human brain 
takes over, more of our energy can 
be duected into peace-time pursuits 
and the impingement of war on 
the ordinary man will be less. This 
will be most advantageous for the 
party in power, of course." 

"Ah," said the president, "I see 
your point. Well, sit down, con- 
gressman, sit down. I want some 
time to think about this. — But 
meanwhile, show me that multipli- 
cation trick again. Let's see if I 
can't catch the point of it." 



(ROGRAMMER SHUMAN 

did not try to hurry matters. 
Loesser was conservative, very con- 
servative, and liked to deal with 
computers as his father and grand- 
father had. Still, he controlled the 
West European computer combine 
and if he could be persuaded to 
join Project Number in full enthu- 
siasm, a great deal would have been 
accomplished. 

But Loesser was holding back. 
He said, "I'm not sure I like the 
idea of relaxing our hold on com- 
puters. The human mind is a capri- 
cious thing. The computer will give 
the same answer to the same prob- 
lem each time. What guarantee 
have we that the human mind will 
do the same?" 

"The human mind. Computer 
Loesser, only manipulates facts. It 
doesn't matter whether the human 
mind or a machine does it. They 
are just tools." 

"Yes, yes. I've gone over your 
ingenious demonstration that the 
mind can duplicate the computer 



but it seems to me a little in the 
air. I'll grant the theory but what 
reason have we for thinking that 
theory can be converted to prac- 
tice?" 

"I think we have reason, sir. 
After all, computers have not al- 
ways existed. The cavemen with 
their triremes, stone axes and rail- 
roads had no computers." 

"And possibly they did not com- 
pute." 

"You know better than that. 
Even the building of a railroad or 
a ziggurat called for some comput- 
ing, and that must have been with- 
out computers as we know them." 

"Do you suggest they computed 
in the fashion you demonstrate?" 

"Probably not. After all, this 
method — we call it 'graphitics', by 
the way, from the old European 
word 'grapho' meaning 'to write' — 
is developed from the computers 
themselves so it cannot have an- 
tedated them. Still, the cavemen 
must have had some method, eh?" 

"Lost arts! If you're going to 
talk about lost arts — " 

"No, no. I'm not a lost art enthu- 
siast, though I don't say there may 
not be some. After all, man was eat- 
ing grain before hydroponics and 
if the primitives ate grain, they 
must have grown them in soil. 
What else could they have done?" 

"I don't know, but I'll believe in 
soil-growing when I see someone 
grow grain in soil. And I'll believe 
in making fire by rubbing two 
pieces of flint together when I see 
that, too." 

Shuman grew placating. "Well, 
let's stick to graphitics. It's just 
part of Xhp process of etherealiza- 

10 



tion. Transportation by means of 
bulky contrivances is giving way 
to direct mass-transference. Com- 
munications devices become less 
massive and more efficient con- 
stantly. For that matter, compare 
your pocket computer with the 
massive jobs of a thousand years 
ago. Why not, then, the last step of 
doing away with computers alto- 
gether? Gome, sir, Project Number 
is a going concern; progress is al- 
ready headlong. But we want your 
help. If patriotism doesn't move 
you, consider the intellectual ad- 
venture involved." 

Loesser said, skeptically, "What 
progress? What can you do beyond 
multiplication? Can you integrate 
a transcendental function?" 

"In time, sir. In time. In the last 
month I have learned to handle di- 
vision. I can determine, and cor- 
rectly, integral quotients and deci- 
mal quotients." 

"Decimal quotients? To how 
many places?" 

Programmer Shuman tried to 
keep his tone casual. "Any num- 
ber!" 

Loesser's lower jaw dropped. 
"Without a computer?" 

"Set me a problem?" 

"Divide twenty-seven by thir- 
teen? Take it to six places." 

Five minutes later, Shuman said, 
"Two point oh seven six nine two 
three." 

Loesser checked it. "Well, now, 
that's amazing. Multiplication 
didn't impress me too much because 
it involved integers after all, and I 
thought trick manipulation might 
do it. But decimals — " 

"And that is not all. There is a 

ISAAC ASIMOV 



new development that is, so far, top 
secret and which, strictly speaking, 
I ought not to mention. Still — 
We may have made a breakthrough 
on the square root front." 

"Square roots?" 

"It involves some tricky points 
and we haven't licked the bugs yet, 
but Technician Aub, the man who 
invented the science and who has 
an amazing intuition in connection 
with it, maintains he has the prob- 
lem almost solved. And he is only a 
technician. A man like yourself, a 
trained and talented mathemati- 
cian ought to have no difficulty." 

"Square roots," muttered Loes- 
ser, attracted. 

"Cube roots, too. Are you with 
us?" 

Loesser's hand thrust out sud- 
denly, "Count me in." 

General Weider stumped his way 
back and forth at the head of the 
room and addressed his listeners 
after the fashion of a savage teacher 
facing a group of recalcitrant stu- 
dents. It made no difference to the 
general that they were the civilian 
scientists heading Project Number. 
Tlie general was the over-all head, 
and he so considered himself at 
every waking moment. 

He said, "Now square roots are 
all fine. I can't do them myself and 
I don't understand the methods, 
but they're fine. Still, the project 
will not be side-tracked into what 
some of you call the fundamentals. 
You can play with graphitics any 
way you want to after the war is 
over, but right now We have specific 
and very practical problems to 
solve." 

THE FEELING OF POWER 



In a far corner, Technician Aub 
listened with painful attention. He 
was no longer a technician, of 
course, having been relieved of his 
duties and assigned to the project, 
with a fine-sounding title and good 
pay. But, of course, the social dis- 
tinction remained and the highly- 
placed scientific leadei's could never 
bring themselves to admit him to 
their ranks on a footing of equality. 
Nor did he, himself, wish it. He 
was as uncomfortable with them as 
they with him. 

The general was saying, "Our 
goal is a simple one, gentlemen ; the 
replacement of the computer. A 
ship that can navigate space with- 
out a computer on board can be 
constructed in one-fifth the time 
and at one-tenth the expense of a 
computer-laden ship. We could 
build fleets five times, ten times as 
great as Deneb could if we coidd 
but eliminate the computer. 

"And I see something even be- 
yond this. It may be fantastic now; 
a mere dream: but in the future I 
see the manned missile!" 

There was an instant murmur 
from the audience. 

The general drove on. "At the 
present time, our chief bottleneck 
is the fact that missiles are limited 
in intelligence. The computer con- 
trolling them can. only be so large 
so they can meet the changing na- 
ture of anti-missile defenses in an 
unsatisfactory way. Few missiles, if 
any, accomplish their goal and mis- 
sile warfare is coming to a dead 
end; for the enemy, fortunately, as 
well as for ourselves. 

"On the other hand, a missile 
(Continued on page 115) 

M 




The aliens wooed Earth with gifts, love, patience and peace. 



Who could resist them? After all, no one shoots Santa Clans! 



ASSASSIN 



BY J. F. BONE 




Illustrated by Ed Emsh 



THE RIFLE LAY comfortably in his hands, a gleaming 
precision instrument that exuded a faint odor of gun oil 
and powder solvent. It was a perfect specimen of the gun- 
smith's art, a semi-automatic rifle with a telescopic sight — a 
precisely engineered tool that could hurl death with pinpoint 
accuracy for better than half a mile. 



Daniel Matson eyed the weapon 
with bleak gray eyes, the eyes of a 
hunter framed in the passionless 
face of an executioner. His blunt 
hands were steady as they lifted 
the gun and tried a dry shot at 
an imaginary target. He nodded 
to himself. He was ready. Carefulh' 
he laid the rifle down on the mat- 
tress which covered the floor of 
his firing point, and looked out 
throuarh the hole in the brickwork 



to the narrow canyon of the street 
below. 

The crowd had thickened. It had 
been gathering since early morning, 
and the growing press of spectators 
had now become solid walls of 
people lining the street, packed 
tightly together on the sidewalks. 
Yet despite the fact that there were 
virtually no police, the crowd did 
not overflow into the street'", nor 
was there any of the pushing 



13 



crowding impatience that once at- 
tended an assemblage of this sort. 
Instead there was a placid toler- 
ance, a spirit of friendly good will, 
an ingenuous complaisance that 
grated on Matson's nerves like the 
screeching rasp of a file drawn 
across the edge of thin metal. He 
shivered uncontrollably. It was hard 
to be a free man in a world of 
slaves. 

It was a measure of the Aztlan's 
triumph that only a bare half- 
dozen police 'copters patrolled 
the empty skies above the parade 
route. The aliens had done this — • 
had conquered the world without 
firing a shot or speaking a word in 
anger. They had wooed Earth with 
understanding patience and super- 
lative guile — and Earth had fallen 
into their hands like a lovesick 
virgin! There never had been any 
real opposition, and what there 
was had been completely ineffec- 
tive. Most of those who had op- 
posed the aliens were out of circula- 
tion, imprisoned in correctional in- 
stitutions, undergoing rehabilita- 
tion. Rehabilitation! a six bit word 
for dehumanizing. When those 
poor devils finished their treatment 
with Aztlan brain-washing tech- 
niques, they would be just like 
these sheep below, with the dif- 
ference that they would never be 
able to be anything else. But these 
other stupid fools crowding the 
sidewalks, waiting to hail their 
destruction — these were the ones 
who must be saved. They- — not the 
martyrs of the underground, were 
the important part of humanity. 

A police 'copter windmilled 
slowly down the avenue toward 

14 



his hiding place, the rotating 
vanes and insect body of the craft 
starkly outlined against the jagged 
backdrop of the city's skyline. He 
laughed soundlessly as the susur- 
rating flutter of the rotor blades 
beat overhead and died whispering 
in the distance down the long 
canyon of the street. His position 
had been chosen with care, and was 
invisible from air and ground a- 
like. He had selected it months 
ago, and had taken considerable 
pains to conceal its true purpose. 
But after today concealment 
wouldn't matter. If things went as 
he hoped, the place might someday 
become a shrine. The idea amused 
him. 

Strange, he mused, how events 
conspire to change a man's career. 
Seven years ago he had been a 
respected and important member 
of that far different sort of crowd 
which had welcomed the visitors 
from space. That was a human 
crowd — half afraid, wholly curious, 
jostling, noisy, pushing — a teeming 
swarm that clustered in a thick 
disorderly ring around the silver 
disc that lay in the center of the 
International Airport overlooking 
Puget Sound. Then — he could have 
predicted his career. And none of 
the predictions would have been 
true — for none included a man 
with a rifle waiting in a blind for 
the game to approach within 
range . . . 

The Aztlan ship had landed ear- 
ly that July morning, dropping 
silently through the overcast cover- 
ing International Airport. It set- 
tled gently to rest precisely in the 

J. F. BONE 



center of the junction of the three 
main runways of the field, effective- 
ly tying up the transcontinental 
and transoceanic traffic. Fully five 
hundred feet in diameter, the giant 
ship squatted massively on the run- 
way junction, cracking and buck- 
ling the thick concrete runways 
imder its enormous weight. 

By noon, after the first skepticism 
had died, and the unbelievable TV 
pictures had been flashed to their 
waiting audience, the crowd began 
to gather. All through that hot July 
morning they came, increasing by 
the minute as farther outlying dis- 
tricts poured their curious into the 
Airport. By early afternoon, literally 
hundreds of millions of eyes were 
watching the great ship over a 
world-wide network of television 
stations which cancelled their regu- 
lar programs to give their viewers 
an uninterrupted view of the enig- 
matic craft. 

By mid-morning the sun had 
burned off the overcast and was 
shining with brassy brilliance upon 
the squads of sweating soldiers from 
Fort Lewis, and more sweating 
squads of blue-clad police from the 
metropolitan area of Seattle- 
Tacoma. The police and soldiery 
quickly formed a ring around the 
ship and cleared a narrow lane 
around the periphery, and this they 
maintained despite the increasing 
pressure of the crowd. 

The hours passed and nothing 
happened. The faint creaking and 
snapping sounds as the seamless 
hull of the vessel warmed its space- 
chilled metal in the warmth of the 
summer sun were lost in the grow- 
ing impatience of the crowd. They 

ASSASSIN 



wanted something to happen. 
Shouts and catcalls filled the air as 
more nervous individuals clamored 
to relieve the tension. Off to one 
side a small group began to clap 
their hands rhythmically. The little 
claque gained recruits, and within 
moments the air was riven by the 
thunder of thousands of palms 
meeting in unison. Frightened the 
crowd might be, but greater than 
fear was the desire to see what sort 
of creatures were inside. 

Matson stood in the cleared area 
surrounding the ship, a position of 
privilege he shared with a few city 
and state officials and the high brass 
from McChord Field, Fort Lewis, 
and Bremerton Navy Yard. He was 
one of the bright young men who 
had chosen Government Service as 
a career, and who, in these days of 
science-consciousness had risen rap- 
idly through ability and merit pro- 
motions to become the Director of 
the Office of Scientific Research 
while still in his early thirties. A 
dedicated man, trained in the bitter 
school of ideological survival, he 
understood what the alien science 
could mean to this world. Their 
knowledge would secure peace in 
whatever terms the possessors cared 
to name, and Matson intended to 
make sure that his nation was the 
one which possessed that knowl- 
edge. 

He stood beside a tall scholarly 
looking man named Roger Thorn- 
ton, who was his friend and inci- 
dentally the Commissioner of Police 
for the Twin City metropolitan 
area. To a casual eye, their posi- 
tions should be reversed, for the 
lean ascetic Thornton looked far 

15 



more like the accepted idea of a 
scientist than burly, thick shoul- 
dered, square faced Matson, whose 
every movement shouted Cop. 

Matson glanced quizzically at the 
taller man. "Well, Roger, I wonder 
how long those birds inside are 
going to keep us waiting before we 
get a look at them?" 

"You'd be surprised if they really 
were birds, wouldn't you?" Thorn- 
ton asked with a faint smile. "But 
-seriously, I hope it isn't too much 
longer. This mob is giving the boys 
a bad time." He looked anxiously 
at the strained line of police and 
soldiery, "I guess I should have 
ordered out the night shift and 
reserves instead of just the riot 
squad. From the looks of things 
they'll be needed if this crowd gets 
any more unruly." 

Matson chuckled. "You're an 
alarmist," he said mildly. "As far as 
I can see they're doing all right. I'm 
not worried about them — or the 
crowd, for that matter. The thing 
that's bothering me is my feet. I've 
been standing on 'em for six hours 
and they're killing me!" 

"Mine too," Thornton sighed. 
I'Tell you what I'll do. When this 
is all over I'll split a bucket of hot 
water and a pint of arnica with 
you." 

"It's a deal," Matson said. 

As he spoke a deep musical hum 
came from inside the ship, and a 
section of the rim beside him sepa- 
rated along invisible lines of junc- 
ture, swinging downward to form a 
broad ramp leading upward to a 
square orifice in the rim of the ship. 
A bright shadowless light that 
seemed to come from the metal 



walls of the opening framed the 
shape of the star traveller who stood 
there, rigidly erect, looking over the 
heads of the .section of the crowd 
before him. 

A concerted gasp of awe and ad- 
miration rose from the crowd — a 
ga^p that was echoed throughout 
the entire ring that surrounded the 
ship. There must be other openings 
like this one, Matson thought dully 
as he stared at the being from 
space. Behind him an Army tank 
rumbled noisily on its treads as it 
drove through the crowd toward 
the ship, the long gun in its turret 
lifting like an alert finger to point 
at the figure of the alien. 

The stranger didn't move from 
his unnaturally stiff position. His 
oddly luminous eyes never wavered 
from their fixed stare at a point far 
beyond the outermost fringes of the 
crowd. Seven feet tall, obviously 
masculine, he differed from man- 
kind only in minor details. His long 
slender hands lacked the little fin- 
ger, and his waist was abnormally 
small. Other than that, he was hu- 
man in external appearance. A wide 
sleeved tunic of metallic fabric cov- 
ered his upper body, gathered in at 
his narrow waist by a broad metal 
belt studded with tiny bosses. The 
tunic ended halfway between hip 
and knee, revealing powerfully 
muscled legs encased in silvery hose. 
Bright yellow hair hung to his 
shoulders, clipped short in a square 
bang across his forehead. His face 
was long, clean featured and ex- 
traordinarily calm — almost godlike 
in its repose. Matson stared, fas- 
cinated. He had the curious impres- 
sion that the visitor had stepped 

J. F. BONE 



bodily out of the Middle Ages. His 
dress and haircut were almost iden- 
tical with that of a medieval cour- 
tier. 

The starman raised his hand — 
his strangely luminous steel gray 
eyes scanned the crowd — and into 
Matson's mind came a wave of 
peaceful calm, a warm feeling of 
goodwill and brotherhood, an in- 
describable feeling of soothing re- 
laxation. With an odd sense of 
shock Matson realized that he was 
not the only one to experience this. 
As far back as the farthest hangers- 
on near the airport gates the tense- 
ness of the waiting crowd relaxed. 
The effect was amazing! Troops 
lowered their weapons with shame- 
faced smiles on their faces. Police 
relaxed their sweating vigilance. 
The crowd stirred, moving back- 
ward to give its members room. 
The emotion-charged atmosphere 
vanished as though it had never 
been. And a cold chill played icy 
fingers up the spine of Daniel Mat- 
son. He had felt the full impact of 
the alien's projection, and he was 
more frightened than he had ever 
been in his life! 



THEY HAD BEEN clever— 
damnably clever! That initial 
greeting with its disarming under- 
tones of empathy and innocence 
had accomplished its purpose. It 
had emasculated Mankind's nat- 
ural suspicion of strangers. And 
their subsequent actions — so beau- 
tifully timed — so careful to avoid 
the slightest hint of evil, had com- 
pleted what their magnificently 
staged appearance had begun. 

ASSASSIN 



The feeling of trust had per- 
sisted. It lasted through quarantine, 
clearance, the public receptions, 
and the private meetings with scien- 
tists and the heads of government. 
It had persisted unabated through 
the entire two months they re- 
mained in the Twin City area. The 
aliens remained as they had been 
in the beginning — completely un- 
spoiled by the interest shown in 
them. They remained simple, un- 
affected, and friendly, displaying an 
ingenuous innocence that de- 
manded a corresponding faith in 
return. 

Most of their time was Sf)ent at 
the University of Washington, 
where at their own request they 
were studied by curious scholars, 
and in return were given courses 
in human history and behavior. 
They were quite frank about their 
reasons for following such a course 
of action — according to their 
spokesman Ixtl they wanted to learn 
human ways in order to make a 
better impression when they visited 
the rest of Mankind. Matson read 
that blurb in an official press release 
and laughed cynically. Better im- 
pression, hah! They couldn't have 
done any better if they had an en- 
tire corps of public relations special- 
ists assisting them! They struck ex- 
actly the right note — and how could 
they improve on perfection? 

From the beginning they left 
their great ship open and un- 
guarded while they commuted back 
and forth from the airport to the 
campus. And naturally the govern- 
ment quickly rectified the second 
error and took instant advantage of 
the first. A guard was posted 

17 



around the ship to keep it clear of 
the unofficially curious, while the 
officially curious combed the ves- 
sel's interior with a fine tooth comb. 
Teams of scientists and technicians 
under Matson's direction swarmed 
through the ship, searching with the 
most advanced methods of human 
science for the secrets of the aliens. 

They quickly discovered that 
while the star travellers might be 
trusting, they were not exactly fools. 
There was nothing about the im- 
penetrably shielded mechanisms 
that gave the slightest clue as to 
their purpose or to the principles 
upon which they operated — nor 
were there any visible controls. The 
ship was as blankly uncommunica- 
tive as a brick wall. 

Matson was annoyed. He had ex- 
pected more than this, and his frus- 
tration drove him to watch the 
aliens closely. He followed them, sat 
in on their sessions with the scholars 
at the University, watched them at 
their frequent public appearances, 
and came to know them well 
enough to recognize the microscopic 
differences that made them indi- 
viduals. To the casual eye they were 
as alike as peas in a pod, but Mat- 
son could separate Farn from 
Quicha, and Laz from Acana — 
and Ixtl — well he would have stood 
out from the others in any circum- 
stances. But Matson never intruded. 
He was content to sit in the back- 
ground and observe. 

And what he saw bothered him. 
They gave him no reason for their 
appearance on Earth, and when- 
ever the question came up Ixtl par- 
ried it adroitly. They were obviously 
not explorers for they displayed a 

IS 



startling familiarity with Earth's 
geography and ecology. They were 
possibly ambassadors, although they 
behaved like no ambassadors he 
had ever seen. They might be 
traders, although what they would 
trade only God and the aliens 
knew — and neither party was in a 
talking mood. Mysteries bothered 
Matson. He didn't like them. But 
they could keep their mystery if he 
could only have the technical 
knowledge that was concealed be- 
neath their beautifully shaped 
skulls. 

At that, he had to admit that 
their appearance had come at pre- 
cisely the right time. No one better 
than he knew how close Mankind 
had been to the final war, when the 
last two major antagonists on Earth 
were girding their human and in- 
dustrial power for a final show- 
down. But the aliens had become a 
diversion. The impending war was 
forgotten while men waited to see 
what was coming next. It was ob- 
vious that the starmen had a reason 
for being here, and until they chose 
to reveal it, humanity would forget 
its deadly problems in anticipation 
of the answer to this delightful 
pvizzle that had come to them from 
outer space. Matson was thankful 
for the breathing space, all too well 
aware that it might be the last that 
Mankind might have, but the enig- 
ma of the aliens still bothered him. 

He was walking down the main 
corridor of the Physics Building on 
the University campus, wondering 
as he constantly did about how he 
could extract some useful knowl- 
edge from the aliens when a quiet 

J. F. BONE 



voice speaking accentless English 
sounded behind him. 

"What precisely do you wish to 
know, Dr. Matson?" the voice said. 

Matson whirled to face the ques- 
tioner, and looked into the face of 
Ixtl. The alien was smiling, ap- 
parently pleased at having startled 
him. "What gave you the idea that 
I wanted to know anything?" he 

"You did," Ixtl said. "We all 
have been conscious of your 
thoughts for many days. Forgive me 
for intruding, but I must. Your 
speculations radiate on such a 
broad band that we cannot help 
being aware of them. It has been 
quite difficult for us to study your 
customs and history with this high 
level background noise. We are 
aware of your interest, but your 
thoughts are so confused that we 
have never found questions we 
could answer. If you would be more 
specific we would be happy to give 
you the information which you 
seek." 

"Oh yeah!" Matson thought. 

"Of course. It would be to our 
advantage to have your disturbing 
speculations satisfied and your fears 
set at rest. We could accomplish 
more in a calmer environment. It is 
too bad that you do not receive as 
strongly as you transmit. If you did, 
direct mental contact would con- 
vince you that our reasons for satis- 
fying you are good. But you need 
not fear us, Earthman. We intend 
you no harm. Indeed, we plan to 
help you once we learn enough to 
formulate a proper program." 

"I do not fear you," Matson said 
— knowing that he lied. 

ASSASSIN 



"Perhaps not consciously," Ixtl 
said graciously, "but nevertheless 
fear is in you. It is too bad — and 
besides," he continued with a faint 
smile "it is very uncomfortable. 
Your glandular emotions are quite 
primitive, and very disturbing." 

"I'll try to keep them under con- 
trol," Matson said dryly. 

"Physical control is not enough. 
With you there would have to be 
mental control as well. Unfortu- 
nately you radiate much more 
strongly than your fellow men, and 
we are unable to shut you out with- 
out exerting considerable effort that 
could better be employed else- 
where." The alien eyed Matson 
speculatively. "There you go 
again," he said. "Now you're 
angry." 

Matson tried to force his mind 
to utter blankness, and the alien 
smiled at him. "It does some good 
— but not much," he said. "Con- 
scious control is never perfect." 

"Well then, what can I do?" 

"Go away. Your range fortunate- 
ly is short." 

Matson looked at the alien. "Not 
yet," he said coldly. "I'm still look- 
ing for something." 

"Our technology," Ixtl nodded. 
"I know. However I can assure you 
it will be of no help to you. You 
simply do not have the necessary 
background. Our science is based 
upon a completely different philoso- 
phy from yours." 

To Matson the terms were con- 
tradictory. 

"Not as much as you think," Ixtl 
continued imperturbably. "As you 
will find out, I was speaking quite 
precisely." He paused and eyed 

19 



Matson thoughtfully. "It seems as 
though the only way to remove your 
disturbing presence is to show you 
that our technology is of no help to 
you. I will make a bargain with 
you. We shall show you our ma- 
chines, and in return you will stop 
harassing us. We will do all in our 
power to make you understand ; but 
whether you do or do not, you will 
promise to leave and allow us to 
continue our studies in peace. Is 
that agreeable?" 

Matson swallowed the lump in 
his throat. Here it was— handed to 
him on a silver platter — and sud- 
denly he wasn't sure that he wanted 
it! 

"It is," he said. After all, it was 
all he could expect. 

They met that night at the space- 
ship. The aliens, tall, calm and 
cool; Matson stocky, heavy-set and 
sweating. The contrast was in- 
fernally sharp, Matson thought. It 
was as if a primitive savage were 
meeting a group of nuclear physi- 
cists at Los Alamos. For some un- 
known reason he felt ashamed that 
he had forced these people to his 
wishes. But the aliens were pleasant 
about it. They took the imposition 
in their usual friendly way. 

"Now," Ixtl said. "Exactly what 
do you want to see — to know?" 

"First of all, what is the principle 
of your space drive?" 

"There are two," the alien said. 
"The drive that moves this ship in 
normal space time is derived from 
Lurgil's Fourth Order equations 
concerning the release of subatomic 
energy in a restricted space time 
continuum. Now don't protest! I 
know you know nothing of Lurgil, 

20 



nor of Fourth Order equations. 
And while I can show you the 
mathematics, I'm afraid they will 
be of little help. You see, our 
Fourth Order is based upon a 
process which you would call Psy- 
chomathematics and that is some- 
thing I am sure you have not yet 
achieved." 

Matson shook his head. "I never 
heard of it," he admitted. 

"The second drive operates in 
warped space time," Ixtl continued, 
"hyperspace in your language, and 
its theory is much more difficult 
than that of our normal drive, al- 
though its application is quite sim- 
ple, merely involving apposition of 
congruent surfaces of hyper and 
normal space at stress points in the 
ether where high gravitational fields 
balance. Navigation in hyperspace 
is done by electronic computer — 
somewhat more advanced models 
than yours. However, I can't give 
you the basis behind the hyper- 
space drive." Ixtl smiled depreci- 
atingly. "You see, I don't know 
them myself. Only a few of the 
most advanced minds of Aztlan can 
understand. We merely operate the 
machines." 

Matson shrugged. He had ex- 
pected something like this. Now 
they would stall him off about the 
machines after handing him a fast 
line of double-talk. 

"As I said," Ixtl went on, "there 
is no basis for understanding. Still, 
if it will satisfy you, we will show 
you our machines — and the mathe- 
matics that created them although 
I doubt that you will learn any- 
thing more from them than you 
have from our explanation." 

J. F. BONE 



"I could try," Matson said 
grimly. 

"Very well," Ixtl replied. 

He led the way into the center of 
the ship where the seamless hous- 
ings stood, the housings that had 
baffled some of the better minds of 
Earth. Matson watched while the 
star men proceeded to be helpful. 
The housings fell apart at invisible 
lines of juncture, revealing mecha- 
nisms of baffling simplicity, and 
some things that didn't look like 
machines at all. The aliens stripped 
the strange devices and Ixtl at- 
tempted to explain. They had anti- 
gravity, forcefields, faster than light 
drive, and advanced design com- 
puters that could be packed in a 
suitcase. There were weird devices 
whose components seemed to run 
out of sight at crazily impossible 
angles, other things that rotated 
frictionlessly, suspended in fields of 
pure force, and still others which 
his mind could not envisage even 
after his eyes had seen them. All 
about him lay the evidence of a 
science so advanced and alien that 
his brain shrank from the sight, re- 
fusing to believe such things existed. 
And their math was worse ! It began 
where Einstein left oflF and went oflf 
at an incomprehensible tangent 
that involved psychology and ESP. 
Matson was lost after the first five 
seconds! 

Stunned, uncomprehending and 
deflated, he left the ship. An im- 
pression that he was standing with 
his toe barely inside the door of 
knowledge became a conscious cer- 
tainty as he walked slowly to his 
car. The wry thought crossed his 
mind that if the aliens were trying 

ASSASSIN 



to convince him of his abysmal 
ignorance, they had succeeded far 
beyond their fondest dreams! 

They certainly had! Matson 
thought grimly as he selected five 
cartridges from the box lying beside 
him. In fact they had succeeded too 
well. They had turned his deflation 
into antagonism, his ignorance into 
distrust. Like a savage, he suspected 
what he could not understand. But 
unlike the true primitive, the emo- 
tional distrust didn't interfere with 
his ability to reason or to draw 
logical inferences from the data 
which he accumulated. In attempt- 
ing to convince, Ixtl had over- 
sold his case. 



IT WAS SHORTLY after he had 
returned to Washington, that the 
aliens gave the waiting world the 
reasons for their appearance on 
Earth. They were, they said, mem- 
bers of a very ancient highly 
evolved culture called Aztlan. And 
the Aztlans, long past the need for 
conquest and expansion, had turned 
their mighty science to the help of 
other, less fortunate, races in the 
galaxy. The aliens were, in a sense, 
missionaries — one of hundreds of 
teams travelling the star lanes to 
bring the benefits of Aztlan culture 
to less favored worlds. They were, 
they unblushingly admitted, altru- 
ists — interested only in helping 
others. 

It was pure corn, Matson re- 
flected cynically, but the world 
lapped it up and howled for more. 
After decades of cold war, luke- 
warm war, and sporadic outbreaks 

21 



of violence, that were inevitably 
building to atomic destruction, men 
were willing to try anything that 
wovild ease the continual burden of 
strain and worry. To Mankind, the 
Aztlans' words were as refreshing as 
a cool breeze of hope in a desert of 
despair. 

And the world got what it 
wanted. 

Quite suddenly the aliens left the 
Northwest, and accompanied by 
protective squads of FBI and Secret 
Service began to cross the nation. 
Taking widely separated paths they 
visited cities, towns, and farms, ex- 
hibiting the greatest curiosity about 
the workings of human civilization. 
i\nd, in turn, they were examined 
by hordes of hopeful humans. 
Everywhere they went, they spread 
their message of good will and hope 
backed by the incredibly convinc- 
ing power of their telepathic minds. 
Behind them, they left peace and 
hopeful calm; before them, antici- 
pation mounted. It rose to a cres- 
cendo in New York where the paths 
of the star men met. 

The Aztlans invaded the United 
Nations. They spoke to the General 
Assembly and the Security Council, 
were interviewed by the secretariat 
and reporters from a hundred for- 
eign lands. They told their story 
with such conviction that even the 
Communist bloc failed to raise an 
objection, which was as amazing to 
the majority of the delegates as the 
fact of the star men themselves. Al- 
truism, it seemed, had no conflict 
with dialectic materialism. The 
aliens offered a watered-down 
variety of their technology to the 

m 



peoples of Earth with no strings at- 
tached, and the governments of 
Earth accepted with open hands, 
much as a small boy accepts a 
cookie from his mother. It was im- 
possible for men to resist the lure of 
something for nothing, particularly 
when it was offered by such people 
as the Aztlans. After all, Matson re- 
flected bitterly, nobody shoots Santa 
Glaus! 

From every nation in the world 
came invitations to the aliens to 
visit their lands. The star men 
cheerfully accepted. They moved 
across Europe, Asia, and Africa- 
visited South America, Central 
America, the Middle East and 
Oceania. No country escaped them. 
They absorbed languages, learned 
customs, and spread good will. 
Everywhere they went relaxation 
followed in their footsteps, and 
throughout the world arose a real- 
ization of the essential brotherhood 
of man. 

It took nearly three years of con- 
tinual travelling before the aliens 
again assembled at UN headquar- 
ters to begin the second part of their 
promised plan — to give their 
science to Earth. And men waited 
with calm expectation for the dawn 
of Golden Age. 

Matson's lips twisted. Fools! 
Blind, stupid fools! Selling their 
birthright for a mess of pottage! He 
shifted the rifle across his knees and 
began filling the magazine with 
cartridges. He felt an empty loneli- 
ness as he closed the action over the 
filled magazine and turned the 
safety to "on". There was no com- 
forting knowledge of support and 

J. F. BONE 



sympathy to sustain him in what he 
was about to do. There was no real 
hope that there ever would be. His 
was a voice crying in the wilderness, 
a voice that was ignored — as it had 
been when he visited the President 
of the United States . . . 



MATSON entered the White 
House, presented his appoint- 
ment card, and was ushered past 
ice-eyed Secret Service men into 
the presidential office. It was as 
close as he had ever been to the 
Chief Executive, and he stared with 
polite curiosity across the width of 
desk which separated them. 

"I wanted to see you about the 
Aztlan business," the President be- 
gan without preamble. "You were 
there when their ship landed, and 
you are also one of the few men in 
the country who has seen them 
alone. In addition, your office will 
probably be handling the bulk of 
our requests in regard to the offer 
they made yesterday in the UN. 
You're in a favorable spot." The 
President smiled and shrugged. "I 
wanted to talk with you sooner, but 
business and routine play the devil 
with one's desires in this office. 

"Now tell me,", he continued, 
"your impression of these people." 

"They're an enigma," Matson 
said flatly. "To tell the truth, I 
can't figure them out." He ran his 
fingers through his hair with a wor- 
ried gesture. "I'm supposed to be a 
pretty fair physicist, and I've had 
quite a bit of training in the social 
sciences, but both the mechanisms 
and the psychology of these Aztlans 
are beyond my comprehension. All 

ASSASSIN 



I can say for sure is that they're as 
far beyond us as we are beyond the 
cavemen. In fact, we have so little 
in common that I can't think of a 
single reason why they would want 
to stay here, and the fact that they 
do only adds to my confusion." 

"But you must have learned 
something," the President said. 

"Oh we've managed to collect 
data," Matson replied. "But there's 
a lot of difference between data and 
knowledge." 

"I can appreciate that, but I'd 
still like to know what you tfUnk. 
Your opinion could have some 
weight." 

Matson doubted it. His opinions 
were contrary to those of the major- 
ity. Still, the Chief asked for it — 
and he might possibly have an 
open mind. It was a chance worth 
taking. 

"Well, Sir, I suppose you've 
heard of the so-called "wild talents" 
some of our own people occasion- 
ally possess?" 

The President nodded. 

"It is my belief," Matson con- 
tinued, "that the Aztlans possess 
these to a far greater degree than 
we do, and that their science is 
based upon them. They have some- 
thing which they call psychomathe- 
matics, which by definition is the 
mathematics of the mind, and this 
seems to be the basis of their physi- 
cal science. I saw their machines, 
and I must confess that their pur- 
pose bafHed me until I realized that 
they must be mechanisms for ampli- 
fying their own natural equipment. 
We know little or nothing about 
psi phenomena, so it is no wonder 
I couldn't figure them out. As a 

23 



matter of fact we've always treated 
psi as something that shouldn't be 
mentioned in polite scientific con- 
versation." 

The President grinned. "I alwa)'s 
thought you boys had your blind 
spots." 

"We do — but when we're con- 
fronted with a fact, we try to find 
out something about it — that is if 
the fact hits us hard enough, often 
enough." 

"Well, you've been hit hard and 
often," the President chuckled, 
"What did you find out?" 

"Facts," Matson said grimly, 
"just facts. Things that could be 
determined by observation and 
measurement. We know that the 
aliens are telepathic. We also know 
that they have a form of ESP — or 
perhaps a recognition of danger 
would be a better term — and we 
know its range is somewhat over a 
third of a mile. We know that 
they're telekinetic. The lack of visi- 
ble controls in their ship would tell 
us that, even if we hadn't seen them 
move small objects at a distance. 
We know that they have eidetic 
memories, and that they can reason 
on an extremely high level. Other 
than that we know nothing. We 
don't even know their physical 
structure. We've tried X-ray but 
they're radio-opaque. We've tried 
using some human sensitives from 
the Rhine Institute, but they're un- 
able to get an}'where. They just 
turn empathic in the aliens' pres- 
ence, and when we get them back, 
they do nothing but babble about 
the beauty of the Aztlan soul." 

"Considering the difficulties, you 
haven't done too badly," the Presi- 

24 



dent said. "I take it then, that 
you're convinced that they are an 
advanced life form. But do you 
think they're sincere in their atti- 
tude toward us?" 

"Oh, they're sincere enough," 
Matson said. "The only trouble is 
that we don't know just what 
they're sincere about. You see, sir, 
we are in the position of a savage to 
whom a trader brings the luxuries 
of civilization. To the savage, the 
trader may represent purest altru- 
ism, giving away such valuable 
things as glass beads and machine 
made cloth for useless pieces of yel- 
low rock and the skins of some na- 
tive pest. The savage hasn't the 
slightest inkling that he's being ex- 
ploited. By the time he realizes he's 
been had, and the yellow rock is 
gold and the skins are mink, he has 
become so dependent upon the 
goods for which the trader has 
whetted his appetite that he inevita- 
bly becomes an economic slave. 

"Of course you can argue that 
the cloth and beads are far more 
valuable to the savage than the gold 
or mink. But in the last analysis, 
value is determined by the higher 
culture, and by that standard, the 
savage gets taken. And ultimately 
civilization moves in and the supe- 
rior culture of the trader's race de- 
termines how the savage will act. 

"Still, the savage has a basis for 
his acts. He is giving something for 
something — making a trade. But 
we're not even in that position. The 
aliens apparently want nothing 
from us. They have asked for noth- 
ing except our good will, and that 
isn't a tradable item." 

"But they're altruists!" the Presi- 

J. F. BONE 



dent protested. 

"Sir, do you think that they're in- 
sane?" Matson asked curiously. 
"Do they appear like fanatics to 
you?" 

"But we can't apply our stand- 
ards to them. You yourself have 
said that their civilization is more 
advanced than ours." 

"Whose standards can we ap- 
ply?" Matson asked. "If not ours, 
then whose? The only standards 
that we can possibly apply are our 
own, and in the entire history of 
human experience there has never 
been a single culture that has had a 
basis of pure altruism. Such a cul- 
ture could not possibly exist. It 
would be overrun and gobbled up 
by its practical neighbors before it 
drew its first breath. 

"We must assume that the cul- 
ture from which these aliens come 
has had a practical basis in its 
evolutionary history. It could not 
have risen full blown and altruistic 
like Minerva from the brain of 
Jove. And if the culture had a prac- 
tical basis in the past, it logically 
follows that it has a practical basis 
in the present. Such a survival trait 
as practicality would probably 
never be lost no matter how far the 
Aztlan race has evolved. Therefore, 
we must concede that they are prac- 
tical people — people who do not 
give away something for nothing. 
But the question still remains — 
what do they want? 

"Whatever it is, I don't think it 
is anything from which we will 
profit. No matter how good it looks, 
I am convinced that cooperation 
with these aliens will not ultimately 
be to our advantage. Despite the 

ASSASSIN 



repwrts of every investigative agency 
in this government, I cannot be- 
lieve that any such thing as pure 
altrusim exists in a sane mind. And 
whatever I may believe about the 
Aztlans, I do not think they're in- 
sane." 

The President sighed. "You are a 
suspicious man, Matson, and per- 
haps you are right; but it doesn't 
matter what you believe — or what 
I believe for that matter. This gov- 
ernment has decided to accept the 
help the Aztlans are so graciously 
offering. And until the reverse is 
proven, we must accept the fact 
that the star men are altruists, and 
work with them on that basis. You 
will organize your office along those 
lines, and extract every gram of in- 
formation that you can. Even you 
must admit that they have knowl- 
edge that will improve our Ameri- 
can way of life," 

Matson shook his head doggedly, 
"I'm afraid. Sir, if you expect 
Aztlan science to improve the 
American way of life, you are go- 
ing to be disappointed. It might 
promote an Aztlan way of life, but 
the reverse is hardly possible." 

"It's not my decision," the Presi- 
dent said. "My hands are tied. 
Congress voted for the deal by ac- 
clamation early this morning. I 
couldn't veto it even if I wanted 
to." 

"I cannot cooperate in what I 
believe is our destruction." Matson 
said in a flat voice. 

"Then you have only one 
course," the President said. "I will 
be forced to accept your resigna- 
tion." He sighed wearily. 

"Personally, I think you're mak- 

25 



ing a mistake. Think it over before 
you decide. You're a good man, and 
Lord knows the government can 
use good men. There are far too 
many fools in politics." He shrugged 
and stood up. The interview was 
over. 

Matson returned to his offices, 
filled with cold frustration. Even 
the President believed he could do 
nothing, and these shortsighted 
politicians who could see nothing 
more than the immediate gains — 
there was a special hell reserved for 
them. There were too many fools 
in politics. Hov/ever, he would do 
what he could. His sense of duty 
was stronger than his resentment. 
He would stay on and try to cushion 
some of the damage which the 
Aztlans would inevitably cause, no 
matter how innocent their motives. 
And perhaps the President was 
right — perhaps the alien science 
would brinff more good than harm. 



FOR THE NEXT two years 
Matson watched the spread of 
Aztlan ideas throughout the world. 
He saw Aztlan devices bring health, 
food and shelter to millions in un- 
derprivileged coxmtries, and im- 
prove the lot of those in more 
favored nations. He watched tyran- 
nies and authoritarian governments 
fall under the passive resistance of 
their peoples. He saw militarism 
crumble to impotence as the Aztlan 
influence spread through every 
facet of society, first as a trickle, 
then as a steady stream, and finally 
as a rushing torrent. He saw Man- 
kind on the brink of a Golden Age 
— and he was unsatisfied. 

m 



Reason said that the star men 
were exactly what they claimed to 
be. Their every action proved it. 
Their consistency was perfect, their 
motives unimpeachable, and the re- 
sults of their efforts were astound- 
ing. Life on Earth was becoming 
pleasant for millions who never 
knew the meaning of the word. 
Living standards improved, and 
everywhere men were conscious of 
a feeling of warmth and brother- 
hood. There was no question that 
the aliens were doing exactly what 
they promised. 

But reason also told him that 
the aliens were subtly and methodi- 
cally destroying everything that 
man had created, turning him from 
an individual into a satisfied puppet 
operated by Aztlan strings. For man 
is essentially lazy — always searching 
for the easier way. Why should he 
struggle to find an answer when the 
Aztlans had discovered it millennia 
ago and were perfectly willing to 
share their knowledge? Why should 
he use inept human devices when 
those of the aliens performed simi- 
lar operations with infinitely more 
ease and efficiency? Why should he 
work when all he had to do was 
ask? There was plan behind their 
acts. 

But at that point reason dissolved 
into pure speculation. Why were 
they doing this? Was it merely mis- 
taken kindliness or was there a 
deeper more subtle motive? Matson 
didn't know, and in that lack of 
knowledge lay the hell in which he 
struggled. 

For two years he stayed on with 
the OSR, watching humanity rush 

J. F. BONE 



down an unmarked road to an un- 
certain future. Then he ran away. 
He could take no more of this blind 
dependence upon alien wisdom. 
And with the change in adminis- 
tration that had occurred in the 
fall elections he no longer had the 
sense of personal loyalty to the 
President which had kept him 
working at a job he despised. He 
wanted no part of this brave new 
world the aliens were creating. He 
wanted to be alone. Like a hermit 
of ancient times who abandoned 
society to seek his soul, Matson fled 
to the desert country of the South- 
west — as far as possible from the 
Aztlans and their works. 

The grimly beautiful land tough- 
ened his muscles, blackened his 
skin, and brought him a measure of 
peace. Humanity retreated to re- 
moteness except for Seth Winters, a 
leathery old-timer he had met on 
his first trip into the desert. The 
acquaintance had ripened to friend- 
ship. Seth furnished a knowledge of 
the desert country which Matson 
lacked, and Matson's money pro- 
vided the occasional grubstake they 
needed. For weeks at a time they 
never saw another human — and 
Matson was satisfied. The world 
could go its own way. He would go 
his. 

Running away was the smartest 
thing he could have done. Others 
more brave perhaps, or perhaps less 
rational — had tried to fight, to form 
an underground movement to op- 
pose these altruists from space; but 
they were a tiny minority so divided 
in motives and purpose that they 
could not act as a unit. They were 
never more than a nuisance, and 

ASSASSIN 



without popular support they never 
had a chance. After the failure of 
a complicated plot to assassinate 
the aliens, they were quickly 
rounded up and confined. And the 
aliens continued their work. 

Matson shrugged. It was funny 
how little things could mark mile- 
posts in a man's life. If he had 
known of the underground he prob- 
ably would have joined it and suf- 
fered the same penalty for failure. 
If he hadn't fled, if he hadn't met 
Seth Winters, if he hadn't taken 
that last trip into the desert, if any 
one of a hundred little things had 
happened differently he would not 
be here. That last trip into the 
desert — he remembered it as though 
it were yesterday . . . 

The yellow flare of a greasewood 
fire cast flickering spears of light 
into the encircling darkness. Above, 
in the purplish black vault of the 
moonless sky the stars shone down 
with icy splendor. The air was 
quiet, the evening breeze had died, 
and the stillness of the desert night 
pressed softly upon the earth. Far 
away, muted by distance, came the 
ululating wail of a coyote. 

Seth Winters laid another stick 
of quick-burning greasewood on the 
fire and squinted across the smoke 
at Matson who was lying on his 
back, arms crossed behind his head, 
eyeing the night sky with the fas- 
cination of a dreamer. 

"It's certainly peaceful out here," 
Matson murmured as he rose to his 
feet, stretched, and sat down again 
looking into the tiny fire. 

" 'Tain't nothin' unusual, Dan'l. 

27 



Not out here it ain't. It's been 
plumb peaceful on this here desert 
nigh onto a million years. An' why's 
it peaceful? Mainly 'cuz there ain't 
too many humans messin' around 
in it." 

"Possibly you're right, Seth." 

"Shore I'm right. It jest ain't 
nacheral fer a bunch of Homo saps 
to get together without an argyment 
startin' somewhere. 'Tain't the na- 
ture of the critter to be peaceable. 
An' y'know, thet's the part of this 
here sweetness an' light between 
nations that bothers me. Last time 
I was in Prescott, I set down an' 
read six months of newspapers — 
an' everything's jest too damn good 
to be true. Seems like everybody's 
gettin' to love everybody else." He 
shook his head. "The hull world's 
as sticky-sweet as molasses candy. 
It jest ain't nacheral!" 

"The star men are keeping their 
word. They said that they would 
bring us peace. Isn't that what 
they're doing?" 

"Shucks Dan'l — that don't give 
'em no call to make the world a 
blasted honey-pot with everybody 
bubblin' over with brotherly love. 
There ain't no real excitement left. 
Even the Commies ain't raisin' hell 
like they useta. People are gettin' 
more like a bunch of damn woolies 
every day." 

"I'll admit that Mankind had 
herd instincts," Matson replied laz- 
ily, "but I've never thought of them 
as particularly sheeplike. More like 
a wolf pack, I'd say." 

"Wal, there's nothin' wolflike 
about 'em right now. Look, Dan'l, 
yuh know what a wolf pack's like. 
They're smart, tough, and mean — 

m 



an' the old boss wolf is the smartest, 
toughest, and meanest critter in the 
hull pack. The others respect him 
'cuz he's proved his ability to lead. 
But take a sheep flock now — the 
bellwether is jest a nice gentle old 
castrate thet'll do jest whut the 
sheepherder wants. He's got no 
originality. He's jest a noise thet the 
rest foUer." 

"Could be." 

"It shore is! Jes f'r instance, an' 
speakin' of bellwethers, have yuh 
ever heard of a character called 
Throckmorton Bixbee?" 

"Can't say I have. He sounds like 
a nance." 

"Whutever a nance is — he's it! 
But yuh're talkin' about our next 
President, unless all the prophets 
are wrong. He's jest as bad as his 
name. Of all the gutless wonders 
I've ever heard of that pilgrim takes 
the prize. He even looks like a rab- 
bit!" 

"I can see where I had better 
catch up on some contemporary 
history," Matson said. "I've been 
out in the sticks too long." 

"If yuh know what's good fer 
yuh, yuh' 11 stay here. The rest of 
the country's goin' t'hell. Brother 
Bixbee's jest a sample. About the 
only thing that'd recommend him is 
that he's hot fer peace — an' he's got 
those furriners' blessing. Seems like 
those freaks swing a lotta weight 
nowadays, an' they ain't shy about 
tellin' folks who an' what they 
favor. They've got bold as brass this 
past year." 

Matson nodded idly— then stiff- 
ened — turning a wide eyed stare on 
Seth. A blinding light exploded in 
his brain as the words sank in. 

J, F, BONE 



With crystal clarity he knew the 
answer! He laughed harshly. 

Winters stared at him with mild 
surprise. "What's bit yuh, Dan'l?" 

But Matson was completely ob- 
livious, busily buttressing the flash 
of inspiration. Sure— that was the 
only thing it could be! Those aliens 
were working on a program — one 
that was grimly recognizable once 
his attention was focussed on it. 
There must have been considerable 
pressure to make them move so fast 
that a short-lived human could see 
what they were planning — but 
Matson had a good idea of what 
was driving them, an atomic war 
that could decimate the world 
would be all the spur they'd need! 

They weren't playing for penny 
ante stakes. They didn't want to 
exploit Mankind. They didn't give 
a damn about Mankind! To them 
humanity was merely an unavoid- 
able nuisance — something to be 
pushed aside, to be made harmless 
and dependent, and ultimately to 
be quietly and bloodlessly elimi- 
nated. Man's civilization held noth- 
ing that the star men wanted, but 
man's planet — that was a dififerent 
story! Truly the aliens were right 
when they considered man a sav- 
age. Like the savage, man didn't 
realize his most valuable possession 
was his land! 

The peaceful penetration was 
what had fooled him. Mankind, 
faced with a similar situation, and 
working from a position of over- 
whelming strength would have re- 
acted differently. Humanity would 
have invaded and conquered. But 
the aliens had not even considered 
this obvious step. 

ASSASSIN 



Why? 

The answer was simple and logi- 
cal. They couldn't! Even though 
their technology was advanced 
enough to exterminate man with 
little or no loss to themselves, com- 
bat and slaughter must be repulsive 
to them. It had to be. With their 
telepathic minds they would neces- 
sarily have a pathologic horror of 
suffering. They were so highly 
evolved that they simply couldn't 
fight — at least not with the weap- 
ons of humanity. But they could 
use the subtler weapon of altruism! 

And even more important — un- 
controlled emotions were poison to 
them. In fact Ixtl had admitted it 
back in Seattle. The primitive psi 
waves of humanity's hates, lusts, 
fears, and exultations must be un- 
bearable torture to a race long past 
such animal outbursts. That was — 
must be — why they were moving so 
fast. For their own safety, emotion 
had to be damped out of the hu- 
man race. 

Matson had a faint conception 
of what the aliens must have suf- 
fered when they first surveyed that 
crowd at International Airport, No 
wonder they looked so strangely im- 
mobile at that first contact! The 
raw emotion must have nearly 
killed them! He felt a reluctant stir 
of admiration for their courage, for 
the dedicated bravery needed to 
face that crowd and establish a 
beachhead of tranquility. Those 
first few minutes must have had 
compressed in them the agonies of 
a lifetime! 

Matson grinned coldly. The 
aliens were not invulnerable. If 
Mankind could be taught to fear 



and hate them, and if that emotion 
could be focussed, they never again 
would try to take this world. It 
would be sheer suicide. As long as 
Mankind kept its emotions it would 
be safe from this sort of invasion. 
But the problem was to teach Man- 
kind to fear and hate. Shock would 
do it, but how could that shock be 
applied? 

The thought led inevitably to the 
only possible conclusion. The aliens 
would have to be killed, and in 
such a manner as to make human- 
ity fear retaliation from the stars. 
Fear woidd unite men against a 
possible invasion, and fear would 
force men to reach for the stars to 
forestall retribution. 

Matson grinned thinly. Human 
nature couldn't have changed 
much these past years. Even with 
master psychologists like the Azt- 
lans operating upon it, changes in 
emotional pattern would require 
generations. He sighed, looked into 
the anxious face of Seth Winters, 
and returned to the reality of the 
desert night. His course was set. He 
knew what he liad to do. 



HE LAID THE rifle across his 
knees and opened the little 
leather box sewn to the side of the 
guncase. With precise, careful 
movements he removed the silencer 
and fitted it to the threaded muzzle 
of the gun. The bulky, blue ex- 
crescence changed the rifle from a 
thing of beauty to one of murder. 
He looked at it distastefully, then 
shrugged and stretched out on the 
mattress, easing the ugly muzzle 
through the hole in the brickwork. 

30 



It wouldn't be long now. . . 

He glanced upward through the 
window above him at the Weather 
Bureau instruments atop a nearby 
building. The metal cups of the 
anemometer hung motionless 
against the metallic blue of the sky. 
No wind stirred in the deep can- 
yons of the city streets as the sun 
climbed in blazing splendor above 
the towering buildings. He moved a 
trifle, shifting the muzzle of the gun 
until it bore upon the sidewalks. 
The telescopic sight picked out 
faces from the waiting crowd with 
a crystal clarity. Everywhere was 
the same sheeplike placidity. He 
shuddered, the sights jumping 
crazily from one face to another, — 
wondering if he had misjudged his 
race, if he had really come too late, 
if he had underestimated the pow- 
ers of the Aztlans. 

Far down the avenue, an excited 
hum came to his ears, and the 
watching crowd stirred. Faces 
lighted and Matson sighed. He was 
not wrong. Emotion was only sup- 
pressed, not vanished. There was 
still time! 

The aliens were coming. Coming 
to cap the climax of their pioneer 
work, to drive the first nail in hu- 
manity's coffin! J"or the first time in 
history man's dream of the brother- 
hood of man was close to reality. 

And he was about to destroy it! 
The irony bit into Matson's soul, 
and for a moment he hesitated, 
feeling the wave of tolerance and 
good will rising from the street be- 
low. Did he have the right to de- 
stroy man's dream? Did he dare 
tamper with the will of the world? 
Had he the right to play God? 

J. F. BONE 



The parade came slowly down 
the happy street, a kaleidoscope of 
color and movement that ap- 
proached and went past in suc- 
cessive waves and masses. This was 
a gala day, this eve of world union ! 
The insigne of the UN was every- 
where. The aliens had used the or- 
ganization to further their plans 
and it was now all-powerful. A 
solid bank of UN flags led the van 
of delegates, smiling and swathed 
in formal dress, sitting erect in their 
black official cars draped with the 
flags of native lands that would 
soon be furled forever if the aliens 
had their way. 

And behind them came the 
Aztlans! 

They rode together, standing on 
a pure white float, a bar of dazzling 
white in a sea of color. All equal, 
their inhumanly beautiful faces 
calm and remote, the Aztlans rode 
through the joyful crowd. There 
was something inspiring about the 
sight and for a moment, Matson 
felt a wave of revulsion sweep 
through him. 

He sighed and thumbed the 
safety to "off", pulled the cocking 
lever and slid the first cartridge 
into the breech. He settled himself 
drawing a breath of air into his 
lungs, letting a little dribble out 
through slack lips, catching the re- 
mainder of the exhalation with 
closed glottis. The sights wavered 
and steadied upon the head of the 
center alien, framing the pale noble 
face with its aureole of golden hair. 
The luminous eyes were dull and 
introspective as the alien tried to 
withdraw from the emotions of the 

ASSASSIN 



crowd. There was no awareness of 
danger on the alien's face. At 600 
yards he was beyond their esper 
range and he was further covered 
by the feehngs of the crowd. The 
sights lowered to the broad chest 
and centered there as Matson's 
spatulate fingers took up the slack 
in the trigger and squeezed softly 
and steadily. 

A coruscating glow bathed the 
bodies of three of the aliens as their 
tall forms jerked to the smashing 
impact of the bullets! Their metal- 
lic tunics melted and sloughed as 
inner fires ate away the fragile 
garments that covered them! Flex- 
ible synthetic skin cracked and 
curled in the infernal heat, reveal- 
ing padding, wirelike tendons, rope- 
like cords of flexible tubing and a 
metallic skeleton that melted and 
dripped in white hot drops in the 
heat of atomic flame — 

"Robots!" Matson gasped with 
sudden blinding realization. "I 
should have known! No wonder 
they seemed inhuman. Their build- 
ers would never dare expose them- 
selves to the furies and conflicts of 
our emotionally uncontrolled 
world!" 

One of the aliens crouched on 
the float, his four-fingered hands 
pressed against a smoking hole in 
his metal tunic. The smoke thick- 
ened and a yellowish ichor poured 
out bursting into flame on contact 
with the air. The fifth alien, Ixtl, 
was untouched, standing with 
hands widestretched in a gesture 
that at once held command and 
appeal. 

Matson reloaded quickly, but 

31 



held his fire. The swarming crowd 
surrounding the alien was too thick 
for a clear shot and Matson, with 
.sudden revulsion, was unwilling to 
risk further murder in a cause al- 
ready won. The tall, silver figure of 
the alien winced and shuddered, his 
huge body shaking like a leaf in a 
storm! His builders had never de- 
signed him to withstand the bar- 
rage of focussed emotion that was 
sweeping from the crowd. Terror, 
shock, sympathy, hate, loathing, 
grief, and disillusionment — -the in- 
credible gamut of human feelings 
wrenched and tore at the Aztlan, 
shorting delicate circuits, ripping 
the poised balance of his being as 
the violent discordant blasts lanced 
through him with destroying en- 
ergy! Ixtl's classic features twisted 
in a spasm of inconceivable agony, 
a thin curl of smoke drifted from 
his distorted tragic mask of a 
mouth as he crumpled, a pitiful de- 
flated figure against the whitness 
of the float. 

The cries of fear and horror 
changed their note as the aliens' 
true nature dawned upon the 
crowd. Pride of flesh recoiled as the 
swarming humans realized the 
facts. Revulsion at being led by ma- 
chines swelled into raw red rage. 
The mob madness spread as an 
ominous growl began rising from 
the streets. 

A panicky policeman triggered 
it, firing his Aztlan-built shock tube 
into the forefront of the mob. A 
dozen men fell, to be trampled by 
their neighbors as a swarm of men 
and women poured over the strug- 
gling officer and buried him from 
sight. Like wildfire, pent-up emo- 



tions blazed out in a flame of fury. 
The parade vanished, sucked into 
the maelstrom and torn apart. 
Fists flew, flesh tore, men and 
women screamed in high bitter 
agony as the mob clawed and tram- 
pled in a surging press of writhing 
forms that filled the street from one 
line of buildings to the other. 

Half-mad with triumph, drunk 
with victory, shocked at the ter- 
rible form that death had taken in 
coming to Ixtl, Matson raised his 
clenched hands to the sky and 
screamed in a raw inhuman voice, 
a cry in which all of man's violence 
and pride were blended! The 
spasm passed as quickly as it came, 
and with its passing came exhaus- 
tion. The job was done. The aliens 
were destroyed. Tomorrow would 
bring reaction and with it would 
come fear. 

Tomorrow or the next day man 
would hammer out a true world 
union, spurred by the thought of a 
retribution that would never come. 
Yet all that didn't matter. The im- 
portant thing — the only important 
thing — was preserved. Mankind 
would have to unite for survival — 
or so men would think — and he 
would never disillusion them. For 
this was man's world, and men 
were again free to work out their 
own destiny for better or for worse, 
without interference, and without 
help. The golden dream was over. 
Man might fail, but if he did he 
would fail on his own terms. And 
if he succeeded — Matson looked up 
grimly at the shining sky. . . 

Slowly he rose to his feet and 
descended to the raging street 
below. END 



32 




Illustrated by Paul Orhan 



THE HERD 



Willy was undoubtedly a hero. 



The difficulty lies in deciding 



which side he was on 



BY ELAINE WILDER 



TWO MONTHS AFTER the 
landing, Ship UXB-69311 was 
rigged out with most things needed 
to make life bearable, if not interest- 
ing, for the crew. Perched on the 
manicured, blue-green sod of the 
planet Engraham, its inner parts 
were transformed and refitted for 
the many months of the Explora- 
tion. No effort and no flight of 
imagination had been spared to 
make the ship resemble more a 
country club than a barracks. With 
the permission of Colonel Mon- 
drain, the crew's bunkroom had 
been completely rearranged, and a 
segment thereof made into a quiet- 
ly elegant bar. Plans for this even- 
tual rejuvenation had been foment- 



33 



ing throughout the very tiresome 
and very monotonous journey. 

When they first landed, the na- 
tives fled, and thus it was easy to 
liberate furnishings from the adja- 
cent village. When the inhabitants 
returned, after the purposes of the 
visiting Earthman were acknowl- 
edged to be harmless, they proved 
to be too courteous to carp about a 
few missing articles. 

The chairs, of a very advanced 
design and most comfortable, were 
made of a light and durable metal 
alloy thus far unknown to Earth. 
The bar (which was probably not 
its purpose on Engraham, no one 
knew or cared what its function had 
been) was of a design so futuristic 
that it would have turned a modern 
artist mad. The utensils, also 
liberated, were unbelievably deli- 
cate, yet strong and easy to wash. 
At first, since the Earth had not 
intended the Exploration to resem- 
ble the type that Texas-stationed 
servicemen like to run in Mata- 
moros, there was nothing to drink 
in the utensils. But hardly six weeks 
had passed before the first hero of 
the Exploration, a man named 
O'Connors, discovered a palatable 
fruit growing on nearby bushes. By 
means of a system of improvised 
pipes (also liberated) it was no 
time at all before tasty beverages, 
somewhat strident but quite effec- 
tive, were being run off and con- 
sumed in quantities. The machine 
known as O'Connors Joy- Juicer was 
concealed behind the bar, and all 
that was ever seen on the bar when 
Colonel Mondrain or the Doctors 
were around was an innocuous fruit 
juice. 

34 



The Earth Command had 
stocked the ship with reading mate- 
rial, most of it of a disgustingly edu- 
cational nature, in photostatic 
cards: and the second hero of the 
Exploration was a man named 
Kosalowsky, who discovered in the 
psychology sections the works of 
Freud and Krafft-Ebing. After this 
discovery, a few interesting discus- 
sions arose. 

After these changes had been 
made, there was very little to do. 

The Earth Command had as- 
sumed that the natives of Engra- 
ham would resent the Explorations 
(most planets did), and so had sent 
along the crew of thirty men for 
protection. Ail had labored might- 
ily to become part of this special 
crew, chosen for endurance and 
known war-like qualities. For once 
they got back to Earth, all were 
slated to be mustered out of service 
immediately, decorated to the ears, 
and awarded full, life-time pen- 
sions. Many already had contracts 
to appear on television and one 
man, Blunt, hinted at a long term 
Hollywood contract. 

But once they got there, there 
was little to do after all. A guard 
was posted; instruments were 
checked; and, although the neces- 
sity seemed slight, the ship was kept 
primed for instantaneous emer- 
gency take-off. On the day cor- 
responding to Earth's Saturday, the 
ship was G. I.'d from stem to stern. 
The maintenance crew made sure 
that no parts deteriorated or got 
liberated by enterprising natives. 
But the natives were not an inven- 
tive race. It was discovered by the 
Doctors (Anker, Frank, Pelham 

ELAINE WILBER 



and Flandeau) that the natives 
literally did not know how to steal. 
They were backward. Dr. Flan- 
deau, who was making great strides 
with the language, reported that 
there was some evidence that the 
Engrahamites had once possessed 
this skill, along with murder, may- 
hem, bad faith, and politics, but 
had lost it, through a deterioration 
of the species. 

Thus, once the ship had been 
transformed into a place worthy of 
human dwelling, and the beverage 
question had been solved, and utter, 
imbecilic boredom circumvented by 
the timely discoveries of Freud and 
Krafft-Ebing, the men found time 
hanging heavily on their hands; 
and the more the doctors discov- 
ered about the Engrahamites, the 
more dismal the situation became. 
The doctors, growing more and 
more fascinated by their tasks, left 
the ship bright and early each day, 
returning around nightfall to re- 
duce their growing stacks of data 
to points of Earthly relevance. The 
Colonel was also out most of the 
time. He paid many social calls on 
the natives, who, being courteous, 
received him, and was often re- 
turned at night in a chauffeured 
native Hop-Hop. Life in the bunk- 
room became a sullen round of 
poker, reading of Kraff t-Ebing, and 
gab: and Earth currency changed 
hands daily in the never-ending 
crap game. 

For there was one great lack in 
their lives. This lack, and the in- 
ability to do anything about it, ab- 
sorbed many hours of conversation. 
At first, complaints only occurred at 
intervals; but as weeks passed, the 

THE HERO 



lamentations became so fervent, so 
constant, and so heart-rending, that 
Dr. Flandeau observed to Dr. Frank 
that more stirring passages had not 
been made since the Jeremiad. For 
Dr. Flandeau, although aging, was 
in his off hours a poet, and a 
Frenchman always. 

Dr. Frank said, "Yes, well, poor 
bastards." 

At first, nostalgically, the crew 
harked back to happier times on 
Earth. Soon not one young lady of 
their collective acquaintance had 
escaped the most minute analysis. 
They were young men — the oldest, 
Blunt, was only twenty-six — and 
several of them had married young, 
greatly limiting their activities so 
that even their cumulative mem- 
ories could not last forever. After 
several weeks, repetition began to 
set in. Once all successes had been 
lovingly remembered, down to the 
last, exquisite detail, they began re- 
calling their failures. The master 
strategist, the imofficial referee of 
these seminars, was Dick Blunt. 

"Now where you went wrong 
there," he would tell a fledglina; 
reporting complete zero with a 
YWCA resident, "Was in making 
her feel that you were interested. 
Your line with a girl like that 
shoidd be one of charity. Pure 
charity. You impress on her that 
you're doing her a terrific favor. 
You offer to bring to her dull life 
romance, adventure, tenderness." 

"I couldn't even get my hands 
on her," complained the reproved 
failure, Herbert Banks. 

"I've always found that type the 
easiest ones of all," Blunt said in- 
differently. "Dull, of course." 

35 



The testiness, the self-pity, the 
shortness of temper and the near- 
riots over stolen packages of ciga- 
rettes, were not improved after the 
Doctors, having surveyed the situa- 
tion thoroughly, decided that it 
would do no harm to let the men of 
the crew go out on Liberty. 

Fraternizing with natives was, of 
course, strictly forbidden. They 
were not to drink off premises. 
(Nor on, for that matter.) They 
were exhorted not to steal, not to 
engage in fights. 

Still, they could walk around, 
take pictures of the strange pink 
houses and the dazzling cities. They 
could watch a covey of children 
swim in the municipal pools. They 
could look at the fountains, the so- 
called "miraculous fountains of 
Engraham", or climb the strange, 
glassy mountains. The natives, al- 
though shy of them, were most po- 
lite, and some smiled enchantingly 
^especially the women. 



THIS WAS THE worst rub of 
all: there were women, and 
they were gorgeous. A little smaller 
than most Earth women, with 
bright eyes, and high, arched eye- 
brows, looking forever as if they 
had heard tlie most priceless joke. 
Their faces conformed to the most 
rigid standards of Caucasian 
beauty. Their legs, so delicate, so 
tapering, so fantastically small of 
ankle, were breath-taking. Their 
clothes, which would have driven a 
Parisian designer to suicide, were 
draped carelessly over the most ex- 
quisite figures. True, they were a 
little deficient in one department, 

36 



and this was explained, before they 
were granted liberty, by Dr. Flan- 
deau. The women of Engraham, he 
said, did not bear children. 

This announcement was not re- 
ceived with special gloom, for until 
then, none of the crew had seen an 
Engrahamite woman. But Willy 
Lanham, a dark-haired, skinny boy 
from Tennessee, asked, unhappily, 
"Don't they even go in for games 
or nothin'?" 

Flandeau understood instantly. 
He shook his head sadly. "I should 
think not. It has been a long time 
since they have observed the nor- 
mal functions. The women are 
mainly for decoration, although it 
is said that some are also created 
for brains. They are a most strange 
people." 

After this — granted these agoniz- 
ing liberties, and able to see that 
which was biologically unattain- 
able — the crew became so demoral- 
ized that not even Kosalowsky's dis- 
covery of the works of Wilhelm 
Reik relieved the deep gloom. 

However, they had reckoned 
without the superior genius of Dick 
Blunt. Blunt received Flandeau's 
news as unhappily as the others, 
and, like the rest, was made miser- 
able by the sight of the glorious 
damozels. But he was a reasonable 
man and he put his reasoning pow- 
ers to work. Soon he alone was 
cheerful. He went around with the 
absorbed, other-world look of a 
physicist grappling with a problem 
in ionospheric mathematics with- 
out the use of an IBM calculator. 
One day he went on Liberty alone. 
He did not return until the fall of 
night, and when he came in his 

ELAINE WILBER 



elation was so immoderate that the 
others thought there must be bars 
on Engraham after all. 

"I have found the answer to our 
question," he said. 

No one needed to ask what ques- 
tion. O'Connors hurried to pour 
Blunt a drink. 

"I have spent the day pursuing 
this answer logically," said Blunt. 
"I have done what any thoughtful 
man would do. I have read up on 
it." 

"How?" cried Henderson. 

"At the library." 

Blunt then described his day: 
finding his way to the library by 
means of pantomime; and finding 
at last, that file of photographs — 
photographs of an utterly self-ex- 
planatory nature. And these he 
pulled from his pocket, for ignor- 
ing all discipline, he had stolen 
them. 

The pictures passed from hand 
to hand. O'Connors passed them 
on to Pane, and suddenly felt the 
need to open the window behind 
him. It was Willy Lanham, the 
boy from Tennessee, who voiced 
those exultant words that rose to 
the throats of all: 

He said, "Hey! They're made 
just like the Earth girls." 

The conversation, at this intense- 
ly interesting point, was cut short 
by the arrival of the Colonel. He 
alighted from the native Hop-Hop 
— waved cheerily to its driver, and 
began coming up. The bottle and 
glasses vanished, and Kosalowsky 
began to read aloud from a book 
especially reserved for these occa- 
sions. The men maintained looks 
of studious interest as the officer 

THE HERO 



went through. He went up the lad- 
der to his own quarters, there to 
write in his growing volume, THE 
COMING OCCUPATION AND 
GOVERNMENT OF ENGRA- 
HAM. They listened until his door 
clicked. 

The conversation was resumed 
in more subdued tones. 

"Do you think," said Pane shak- 
ily, "They still could?" 

"Not a question of it," Blunt 
said. "These pictures prove it. It's 
what you might call a lost art. Once 
upon a time, as with all the fortu- 
nate parts of the galaxy, this art 
was known to the Engrahamites. 
Through some terrific foul-up, they 
lost it. Probably a combination of 
the science of incubation, and the 
reign of some ghastly square, like 
Queen Victoria. Thus were the 
girls of Engraham deprived of the 
pleasures of love." 

"The men, too," said Willy. All 
glared at him reproachfully. To 
care about the happiness of the 
Engrahamite men was thought not 
quite patriotic. 

"Gradually," Blunt went on, 
"they must have begun to lose 
interest. Probably there was some 
taboo. In the end they probably all 
thought, oh, to hell with it, and be- 
gan serving on committees." 

A long sigh went up. 

"It is for us," Blunt said softly, 
treasuring each word, "to restore 
these vmhappy maidens to their 
original human rights. 

"But it isn't going to be easy," 
Blunt went on. His voice dropped 
even lower. "Think what would 
happen if it went sour. Those Doc- 
tors would get wind of it. We'd be 



stuck in the Ship for the rest of 
the Exploration." 

There was a sober pause. Finally 
Banks cleared his throat and said, 
"Well, how do you think it should 
be handled, Blunt?" 

"Well, every beachhead needs an 
invasion," Blunt said, casually hold- 
ing out his glass. O'Connors leapt 
to fill it. "One guy has got to lay 
the groundwork. Let him enlighten 
one quail. Explain things to her." 
He took a long, leisurely drink, and 
sighed. "This quail will rush 
around telling the others. Pretty 
soon there'll be so many hanging 
around the ship that — " 

There was a general rush for 
cooling beverages. 

"Right," someone said, when the 
faculty of speech was recovered. 

"And necessarily," said Blunt, 
"this has to be the guy with the 
most savvy. The one who knows the 
score. The one most likely to suc- 
ceed. Check?" 

All knew what this was leading 
up to. Martin said unhappily, 
"Check, Blunt, You're our boy." 

Blunt was scheduled to stand 
guard the next day, but Willy Lan- 
ham, eager to assist the cause, vol- 
unteered to take over for him. The 
hours seemed to creep by. His air 
was swaggering and cool when he 
returned, and all gathered round 
with eager curiosity — all but Lan- 
ham, who had not recovered from 
standing guard. 

Blunt sauntered to the bar, ac- 
cepted a drink, sipped it, lighted a 
cigarette, and took a long, pensive 
drag. Finally he said reminiscently, 
"What a doll!" 

as 



Pane, never a subtle man, cried 
in anguish, "Well, how'd you make 
out?" 

Blunt smiled smugly. He began 
his recital. He was walking along 
the street and he met this gorgeous 
creature. A full description fol- 
lowed (broken by the arrival of 
the Colonel and two paragraphs of 
the DECLINE AND FALL) mak- 
ing it clear that this was the dish 
of dishes, the most beautiful of the 
beautiful, the most charming, and 
the most intelligent. She allowed 
herself to be addressed in Blunt's 
few words of Engrahamic and, 
smiling ever patiendy, sat with him 
for several hours. Their talk took 
place in a secluded bower, in one 
of the many parks. She was agree- 
able and charmed and promised to 
see him again. He even managed, 
through terrific feats of pantomime, 
to impress on her the need of se- 
crecy in future meetings. 

"That was all?" someone said, 
when he finished. 

"For the first meeting, I think I 
did wonders," said Blunt. "After 
all, sex hasn't been known here 
since a time corresponding to our 
Stone Age." 

Later, when the nightly poker 
game was beginning, Willy I^an- 
ham said, "Why didn't you just 
make a grab for her?" 

"That's the hill-billy approach," 
Blunt said disdainfully. "These girls 
are civilized — very, very civilized. 
It's important not to shock them." 



BLUNT'S NEXT gambit was to 
set about learning the lan- 
guage. For this he went not to 



ELAINE WILBER 



Flandeau, who best knew it, but to 
Ankers, who was a pure scientist 
in every sense of the word, and not 
so likely to suspect his motives. The 
girl proved very cultured. She took 
him to art galleries, to symphonies, 
and mountain climbing, for scram- 
bling up and down the glassy hills 
was a favorite Engrahamic sport. 
As he advanced in the language, 
he learned that her name was Ca- 
tataphinaria, which meant "she will 
attain relative wisdom". He found 
that she worked for the Eleven 
who, while not rulers, offered gen- 
eral suggestions which the populace 
more or less followed. 

Although his slow progress in- 
evitably bored the crew, still, it of- 
fered that one precious ray of hope, 
and they became so tractable that 
even the Doctors noticed it. They 
laid it to the secret ingredient that 
Dr. Frank had introduced into the 
drinking water. 

The summer wore on, becoming 
hotter each day. By the end of the 
second month of his courtship, 
Blunt began to speak to her of love. 

She laughed. She said that she 
had little curiosity on the subject, 
although it was now and then 
mentioned by the students of an- 
tiquity. Assured that it was pleasur- 
able, she said that she heard that 
barbarians also enjoyed murdering 
people and making them butts of 
jokes. 

Willy Lanham said, "Don't listen 
to what a girl says. Just make a 
grab for her." 

This suggestion was laughed to 
scorn. 

Weeks passed, the summer be- 
gan to wane. Tempers again began 

THE HERO 



to shorten. Flandeau said to Frank, 
"The men are worse again." 

"Yes, perhaps we should increase 
the dosage." 

The fruits for the Joy-Juicer 
grew thin on the silvery bushes, and 
men ranged far and wide, putting 
in supplies for the winter. 

One night, when Blunt had won 
at poker, all the men lay in their 
bunks, too dispirited to drink, to 
shoot craps, almost too miserable 
even for speech. Blunt again began 
talking of Catataphinaria. Drowsily 
Lanham said, "I think you're going 
at it the wrong way, Dick. Try 
some real rough stuff. You know — 
kiss her. She might like it." 

Before Blunt could defend his 
strategy, Kosalowsky sat up in his 
bunk. "Yes, for cripes sake," he 
said, "Move in for the kill. Or shut 
up about it. You're driving us all 
nuts." 

"Would you like to try?" Blunt 
suggested softly. 

"Sure I'll try," Kosalowsky said. 
He turned on the light over his 
bunk. "Give me a crack at her. I 
could have managed it weeks ago. 
All you've done is talk to the 
quail." 

"Yah, Dick, maybe you're using 
the wrong approach on this one," 
O'Connors suggested. 

"It's the damn places you take 
her," Kosalowsky said. "Art gal- 
leries. Anybody ever seduce a girl 
in an art gallery? Symphonies. 
Popping around in her damn Hop- 
Hop. Can't you ever get her 
alone?" 

"She lives with ten other girls," 
Blunt said sulkily. "They're all 

39 



home all the time." 

"Well, bring her here, then," 
Pane suggested. "We'll all take a 
powder." 

"Where?" 

There was no answer. They 
could not all, by day, desert the 
ship, and it was getting too chilly 
for the crew to hide in adjacent 
shrubbery. "We could put up a 
wall," Pane said suddenly, "be- 
tween the bunks and the bar." 

"With what?" 

"I know," Banks said eagerly, 
"where there's a whole pile of stuff. 
It's nice thin metal, just lying there 
getting rusty." 

"I think you're premature — " 

"Premature!" Kosalowsky shout- 
ed. "Six months you've been chas- 
ing this tomato. You call that pre- 
mature?" 

"Only four by Engrahamic 
time," Blunt said, insulted. 

"Listen," Kosalowsky said, "that 
wall goes up tomorrow. And you're 
smuggling her in tomorrow night. 
Or else," he said, glaring at Blunt, 
"after that it's every man for him- 
self. Check?" 

Blunt, only slightly seen in the 
light from Kosalowsky's bunk, was 
white with rage. "All right, guys," 
he said stonily. "I've been trying to 
do right by this frail. Nothing 
abrupt or hillbilly. Nothing to hurt 
her delicate feelings or her fine 
mind. But if this is how you want 
it— Okay!" 

The next day the wall went up. 

Hardly a word was said as it 
was hammered in place. Once up, 
the place was G. I.'d thoroughly. 
The ash trays were washed, the 

40 



floor vacuumed, and the lights ad- 
justed to achieve the most tellingly 
seductive effect. Blunt went out at 
two, thin-lipped and silent. 

"The jerk," Kosalowsky said, "I 
think he's a lot of hot air. That's 
what / think." 

The Colonel came in at night- 
fall and asked about the wall. They 
told him that it was to cut off the 
recreation section from the sleeping 
quarters, for the protection of those 
who wanted more sleep to prepare 
for the grueling winter watches. 

"Very good idea men," the 
Colonel said, and went upstairs to 
write another chapter in his book. 

At nine the men disappeared in- 
to their bunks. O'Connors won the 
responsible job of peering through 
the narrow slit in the wall. Behind 
him could be heard the labored 
breathing of twenty-seven dis- 
traught men. One man snored. 
"Wake up, you stupid ass," Pane 
told Lanham. "You'll wreck the 
show." "- 

At last the door opened and 
Blunt came in — with the girl. 

She was breath-taking. She wore, 
O'Connors reported, a dress cut to 
here — and her hair was piled high 
on her patrician head. Blunt had 
not lied. She was even prettier than 
the usual run of Engraham girls. 

"He's offering her a drink," 
O'Connors whispered. 

"She take it?" 

"No — she's sitting at the bar. 
He's having one, though. He's turn- 
ing on the hi-fi." 

He did not have to tell them, 
since all could hear the soft music. 
They had selected a program of 
melodies considered sure-fire. 

ELAINE WILDER 



"He's talking to her — putting his 
ann around her waist. Oh-oh. She 
knocked it off. She's laughing, 
though." 

In the silence they all heard her 
laugh. Several men moved uncom- 
fortably. "He's leading her toward 
the couch — oh-oh — she stopped to 
look at the radar screen." 

It was the auxiliary radar, not 
the important one in the control 
room. "What's he doing?" 

"Telling her — he's edging her to 
the couch again — now she's asking 
about the Bassett Blaster. They're 
fooling around with the gim. He's 
showing her how it works — trying 
to put his hands — !" 

This last was lost, for there was 
a sudden, resounding blast. Their 
bunks, the entire ship, trem.bled. 

The meaning was clear to all. 
They flattened to their bunks, and 
waited tensely. They heard a sound, 
the sound of a foot kicking a body. 
A hand scratched tentatively 
along the wall. 

No one moved. "She killed him." 
O'Connors voice was no more than 
a slight whisper. "Lay low — lay 
low." 

Then a woman's voice said, in 
perfect English, "AH right, you 
men. Come out of there." 

The door was found and flung 
open. Catataphinaria stood in the 
dim light — still holding the Blaster. 
She said again, more sharply, "I 
said, Come out of there!" 

Clumsily, they came down from 
their bunks. 

"Now," she said, as she had 
them all against the wall, "call 
down the others." 

But this was unnecessary, for the 

THE HERO 



Doctors and the Colonel were al- 
ready descending the ladder. They 
turned quite white at the sight of 
her. Wordlessly, she indicated that 
they were to join the others. The 
Doctors found it harder to adjust 
to a purely military sort of emer- 
gency. Ankers asked clearly, "What 
on earth is this nonsense?" 

"No nonsense," the girl said. 
"Just do as I say. First, surrender 
all your papers." 

"Our papers?" 

"Your research. Your conclu- 
sions. Everything." 

Henderson said, "I'll go get it, 
Ma'am." 

"I would also like the Colonel's 
amusing work on the coming oc- 
cupation." 

"I know where it is, sir," Martin 
said swiftly. "I'll get it." 

The Colonel's expression was 
stony. He nodded to Martin to get 
it, and it occurred to him that the 
girl was one of those whom he had 
personally selected as the most 
promising for the puppet govern- 
ments. But when he asked about her 
identity, she cut him off without a 
word. 

"Then, may I ask where you 
learned such flawless English?" 

"All of us know English," she 
said. "It is a very stupid language." 

Martin and Henderson returned 
with the papers. Gingerly they ap- 
proached her, handed the papers to 
her, and darted back to their places 
in the line. She placed the stack on 
the bar, leafed through it, all the 
while keeping them covered with 
the Blaster, and remarked on fin- 
ishing, "It is exactly what one 
would expect barbarians to find 

41 



interesting." 

Flandeau, however, remained a 
scientist to the last. 

"We find ourselves unhappily de- 
ceived," he said. "We were certain 
— that you were utterly without de- 
fenses. We were told that you did 
not know how to lie, cheat, dissem- 
ble, or fight." 

"Only not with each other," she 
said. "It was, so to speak, a lost 
art." She glanced at Blunt. Several 
men squirmed. "But it is one that 
we have regained," she said. 

"And what will you do with us?" 
Flandeau asked. 

"We have decided to let you go," 
she said. "Now that we possess this 
weapon," — she brandished the 
Blaster — "which we can copy, we 
think we can prevent more Ex- 
plorations. At least this is the opin- 
ion of the Eleven. So I am in- 
structed to let you leave — at once, 
of course." 

"You are most charming," said 
Flandeau. 

"At once," she repeated. 

"Yes, of course. Men! Prepare 
for blastoff!" 



THE WAY BACK was tedious 
— the floating around, the 
boredom, the unending blackness 
of space — but at least it was going 
home. After the first weeks of 
space-sickness, things returned to 
near normal, and the Doctors con- 
ferred with the Colonel. It was de- 
cided that the best report should 
be that Engraham was uninviting, 
bleak, and of no interest to Earth- 
men. The reputations of all were 
at stake (the doctors found them- 

*i 



selves, stripped of their papers, 
unable to recollect enough, and the 
Colonel desperately feared a court- 
martial) and the crew was thus 
advised. All agreed to keep their 
mouths shut. Thus their honorable 
discharges, medals, and life-time 
pensions would be safe. 

So, with all this decided, and 
Earth only a few months away, 
relative cheerfulness reigned. Only 
Willy Lanham continued to mope. 

"What's biting you?" Kosalowsky 
asked, one day as they lay strapped 
in adjacent bunks. "Your face is 
as long as this ship." 

"I just feel bad," Willy said. "I 
can feel bad if I want to, can't I?" 

"What the hell, we'll soon be 
home. We can really raise some 
hell, then." 

"I miss my girl," Willy blurted 
out. 

"You'll see her pretty soon." 

"I mean my girl on Engraham." 

It happened that just then sev- 
eral other men, bored with lying 
still, were floating past. They 
gripped the edges of Willy's bunk. 

"You mean you had," Kosalow- 
sky said cunningly, "a girl on En- 
graham?" 

"Sure I did," said Willy de- 
fensively. "Didn't all you guys?" 

More and more men joined the 
knot of bodies around Willy's bunk. 
The atmosphere became distinctly 
menacing. 

"You mean you didn't?" Willy 
said. "You mean it wasn't a gag we 
were pulling on Blunt?" 

They were silent. One pair of 
floating hands neared Willy's 
throat. 

"Honest," he said. "I didn't 

ELAINE WILBER 



think you were that dumb. I salowsky asked heavily, 
thought you were just letting Blunt "Yeah!" echoed the others, 

make an ass of himself. I thought "Well, she was just a frail, I 

that — well, it was so easy. I even guess," Willy said. "I used to see 

told Dick a couple of times. You her around the ship. On guard 

just had to make a grab for 'em." duty. I used to see her all the time. 

Pane suddenly let out a harsh What the hell," he said, "You think 

sound, like the cry of a wounded I'm dumb or something? Why'd 

bull. you think I was willing to stand 

"So who was this frail?" Ko- guard all the time?" END 



" '"" "' " 



What Is Your Science I. Q.? 

LAND, sea, air or otherwise! Score 5 points for each correct an- 
swer; 50 is about average for the course. Anything more makes 
you really science-minded. Answers on page 115. 

1. What is a dodecahedron? 

2. In which constellation is the Milky Way? 

3. What is unusual about the sulfur content of sea water? 

4. What metal is referred to when the word stannous is used? 



5. What determines the boiling point of a substance? 



6. What is aerology? 

7. Arrange the following according to Moh's scale: topaz, gyp- 

! sum, fluorite. ! 

8. What are the six devices known as simple machines? 

9. What is polymerization? 

10. What is the name of element 102? 

11. What makes fungi and algae similar? ; 

12. What are the constituents of a solution of aqua regia? 

13. What would 12 on the Beaufort scale indicate? 
; 14. What is the Curie point? 

15. Name three ways in which fungi reproduce. | 



THE HERO 43 



(The following is taken from the 
files of the Medical Disciplinary 
Board, Hospital Earth, from the 
preliminary hearings in re: The 
Profession vs. Samuel B. Jenkins, 
Physician; First Court of Medical 
Affairs, final action pending.) 

COM GOD S221VB73 VORO- 
GHISLOV SECTOR; 4th GA- 
LACTIC PERIOD 22, 2341 GEN- 
ERAL SURVEY SHIP MERCY 
TO HOSPITAL EARTH 
VIA: FASTEST POSSIBLE 
ROUTING, PRIORITY UN- 
ASSIGNED 

TO: Lucius Darby, Physician 
Grade I, Black Service Director 
of Galactic Periphery Services, 
Hospital Earth 

FROM: Samuel B. Jenkins, Physi- 
cian Grade VI, Red Service Gen- 
eral Practice Patrol Ship Lancet 
(Attached GSS Mercy pro tem) 

SIR : The following communication 
is directed to your attention in 
hopes that it may anticipate vari- 
ous charges which are certain to be 
placed against me as a Physician of 
the Red Service upon the return of 
the General Survey Ship Mercy to 
Hospital Earth (expected arrival 
four months from above date) . 

These charges will undoubtedly 
be preferred by one Turvold Neel- 
sen, Physician Grade II of the 
Black Service, and Commander of 
the Mercy on its current survey 
mission into the Vorochislov Sec- 
tor. Exactly what the charges will 
be I cannot say, since the Black 
Doctor in question refuses either 




Illustrated by Ed Emsh 



A4 



CONTAMINATION CREW 



BY ALAN E. NOURSE 




PMtU 



Orders were orders! The creature had to he killed. 



But just how does one destroy the indestructible? 



audience or communication with 
me at the present time; however, it 
seems likely that treason, incom- 
petence and mutinous insubordina- 
tion will be among the milder com- 
plaints registered. It is possible that 
even Malpractice might be added, 
so you can readily understand the 
reasons for this statement — 

The following will also clarify 
my attached request that the GSS 
Mercy, upon arrival in orbit 
around Hospital Earth, be met im- 
mediately by a decontamination 
ship carrying a vat of hydrochloric 
acid, concentration 3.7%, measur- 
ing no less than twenty by thirty by 
fifty feet, and that Quarantine offi- 
cials be prepared to place the en- 
tire crew of the Mercy under physi- 
cal and psychiatric observation for 
a period of no less than six weeks 
upon disembarkation. 

The facts, in brief, are as fol- 
lows : 

Three months ago, as crew of 
the General Practic Patrol Ship 
Lancet, my colleague Green Doc- 
tor Wallace Stone and myself be- 
gan investigating certain peculiar 
conditions existing on the fourth 
planet of Mauki, Vorochislov Sec- 
tor (Class I Medical Service Con- 
tract.) The entire population of 
that planet was found to be suffer- 
ing from a mass psychotic delusion 
of rather spectacular proportions: 
namely, that they and their entire 
planet were in imminent danger of 
being devoured, in toto, by an in- 
destructible non-humanoid crea- 
ture which they called a hlorg. 
The Maukivi were insistent that a 
hlorg had already totally con- 
sumed a non-existent outer planet 



in their system, and was now hard 
at work on neighboring Mauki V. 
It was their morbid fear that 
Mauki IV was next on its list. No 
amount of reassurance could con- 
vince them of the foolishness of 
these fears, although we exhausted 
our energy, our patience, and our 
food and medical supplies in the 
effort. Ultimately we referred the 
matter to the Grey Service, feeling 
confident that it was a psychiatric 
problem rather than medical or 
surgical. We applied to the GSS 
Mercy to take us aboard to replen- 
ish our ship's supplies, and provide 
us a much-needed recovery period. 
The Black Doctor in command ap- 
proved our request and brought us 
aboard. ' 

The trouble began two days 
later. . . 



THERE WERE THREE classes 
of dirty words in use by the 
men who travelled the spaceways 
back and forth from Hospital 
Earth. 

There were the words you sel- 
dom used in public, but which were 
colorful and descriptive in private 
use. 

Then there were the words 
which you seldom used even in pri- 
vate, but which effectively relieved 
feelings when directed at mirrors, 
inanimate objects, and people who 
had just left the room. 

Finally, there were the words 
that you just didn't use, period. 
You knew they existed; you'd 
heard them used at one time or an- 
other, but to hear them spoken out 
in plain Earth-English was enough 

ALAN E. NOURSE 



to rock the most space-hardened of 
the Galactic Pill Peddlers back on 
his well-worn heels. 

Black Doctor Turvold Neelsen's 
Earth-English was spotty at best, 
but the word came through with- 
out any possibility of misinterpreta- 
tion. Red Doctor Sam Jenkins 
stared at the little man and felt his 
face turning as scarlet as the lining 
of his uniform cape. 

"But that's ridiculous!" he final- 
ly stammered. "Quite aside from 
the language you use to suggest it." 

"Ah! So the word still has some 
punch left, eh? i\t least you puppies 
bring something away from your 
Medical Training, even if it's only 
taboos." The Black Doctor scowled 
across the desk at Jenkins' lanky 
figure. "But sometimes, my good 
Doctor, it is better to face a fact 
than to wait for the fact to face you. 
Sometimes we have to crawl out of 
our ivory towers for a minute or 
two — you know?" 

Jenkins reddened again. He had 
never had any great love for phy- 
sicians of the Black Service — who 
did? — but he found himself dislik- 
ing this short, blunt-spoken man 
even more cordially than most. 
"Why implicate the Lancet?" he 
burst out. "You've landed the 
Mercy on plenty of planets before 
we brought the Lancet aboard 
her—" 

"But we did not have it with us 
before the Lancet came aboard, 
and we do have it now. The im- 
plication is obvious. You have 
brotight aboard a contaminant." 

He'd said it again. 

Red Doctor Jenkin's face dark- 
ened. "The Green Doctor and I 



have maintained the Lancet in per- 
fect conformity with the Sterility 
Code. We've taken every precau- 
tion on both landing and disem- 
barking procedures. What's more, 
we've spent the last three months 
on a planet with no mutually com- 
patible flora or fauna. From Hos- 
pital Earth viewpoint, Mauki IV is 
sterile. We made only the briefest 
check-stop on Mauki V before join- 
ing you. It was a barren rock, but 
we decontaminated again after 
leaving. If you have a — a contami- 
nant on board your ship, sir, it 
didn't come from the Lancet. And 
I won't be held responsible." 

It was strong language to use to 
a Black Doctor, and Sara Jenkins 
knew it. There were doctors of the 
Green and Red Services who had 
spent their professional lives on 
some god-forsaken planetoid at the 
edge of the Galaxy for saying less. 
Red Doctor Sam Jenkins was too 
near the end of his Internship, too 
nearly ready for his first Permanent 
Planetary Appointment with the 
rank, honor, and responsibility it 
carried to lightly risk throwing it to 
the wind at this stage — 

But a Red Doctor does not bring 
a contaminant aboard a survey 
ship, he thought doggedly, no mat- 
ter what the Black Doctor says — 

Neelsen looked at the young man 
slowly. Then he shrugged. "Of 
course, I'm merely a pathologist. I 
realize that we know nothing of 
medicine, nor of disease, nor of the 
manner in which disease is spread. 
All this is beyond our scope. But 
perhaps you'll permit one simple 
question from a dull old man, just 
to humor him." 



CONTAMINATION CREW 



i7 



Jenkins looked at the floor. "I'm 

sorry, Sir." 

"Just so. You've had a very suc- 
cessful cruise this year with the 
Lancet, I understand." 

Jenkins nodded. 

"A most successful cruise. Four 
planets elevated from Class IV to 
Class H contracts, they tell me. 
Morua II elevated from Class VI 
to Class I, with certain special rid- 
ers. A plague-panic averted on Set- 
man I, and a very complex virus- 
bacteria symbiosis unravelled on 
Orb III. An illustrious record. You 
and your colleague from the Green 
Service are hoping for a year's ex- 
emption from training, I imag- 
ine — " The Black Doctor looked up 
sharply. "You searched your holds 
after leaving the Mauki planets, I 
presume?" 

Jenkins blinked. "Why — no, sir. 
That is, we decontaminated accord- 
ing to — " 

"I see. You didn't search your 
holds. I suppose you didn't notice 
your food supplies dwindling at an 
alarming rate?" 

"No—" The Red Doctor hesi- 
tated. "Not really." 

"Ah." The Black Doctor closed 
his eyes wearily and flipped an ac- 
tivator switch. The scanner on the 
far wall buzzed into activity. It 
focussed on the rear storage hold 
of the Mercy where the little 
Lancet was resting on its landing 
rack. "Look closely, Doctor." 

At first Jenkins saw nothing. 
Then his eye caught a long, pink 
glistening strand lying across the 
floor of the hold. The scanner 
picked up the strand, followed it to 
the place where it emerged from a 

48 



neat pencil-sized hole in the hull of 
the Lancet. The strand snaked com- 
pletely across the room and disap- 
peared through another neat hole 
in the wall into the next storage 
hold. 

Jenkins shook his head as the 
scanner flipped back to the hole 
in the Lancet's hull. Even as he 
watched, the hole enlarged and a 
pink blob began to emerge. The 
blob kept coming and coming until 
it rested soggily on the edge of the 
hole. Then it teetered and fell splat 
on the floor. 

"Friend of yours?" the Black 
Doctor asked casually. 

It was a pink heap of jelly just 
big enough to fill a scrub bucket. It 
sat on the floor, quivering noxious- 
ly. Then it sent out pseudopods in 
several directions, probing the 
metal floor. After a few moments it 
began oozing along the strand of 
itself that lay on the floor, and 
squeezed through the hole into the 
next hold. 

"Ugh," said Sam Jenkins, feeling 
suddenly sick. 

"The hydroponic tanks are in 
there," the Black Doctor said. 
"You've seen one of those before?" 

"Not in person." Jenkins shook 
his head weakly. "Only pictures. 
It's a hlorg. We thought it was only 
a Maukivi persecution fantasy." 

"This thing is growing pretty 
fast for a persecution fantasy. We 
spotted it eight hours ago, demol- 
ishing what was left of your food 
supply. It's twice as big now as it 
was then." 

"Well, we've got to get rid of it," 
said Jenkins, suddenly coming to 
life. 

ALAN E. NOURSE 



"Amen, Doctor." 

"I'll get the survey crew alerted 
right away. We won't waste a min- 
ute. And my apologies." Jenkins 
was hurrying for the door. ''I'll get 
it cleared out of here fast." 

"I do hope so," said the Black 
Doctor. "The thing makes me ill 
just to think about." 

"I'll give you a clean-ship report 
in twenty-four hours," the Red 
Doctor said as confidently as he 
could and beat a hasty retreat 
down the corridor. He was wishing 
fervently that he felt as confident 
as he sounded. 

The Maukivi had described the 
hlorg in excruciating detail. He and 
Green Doctor Stone had listened, 
and smiled sadly at each other, day 
after day, marvelling at the fanci- 
ful delusion. Hlorgs, indeed! And 
such creatures to dream up — eat- 
ing, growing, devouring plant, ani- 
mal and mineral without discrim- 
ination — 

And the Maukivi had stoutly 
maintained that this hlorg of theirs 
was indestructible — 



GREEN DOCTOR Wally 
Stone, true to his surgical call- 
ing, was a man of action. 

"You mean there is such a 
thing?" he exploded when his part- 
ner confronted him with the news. 
"For real? Not just somebody's 
pipe dream?" 

"There is," said Jenkins, "and 
we've got it. Here. On board the 
Mercy. It's eating like hell-and- 
gone and doubling its size every 
eight hours." 

"Well what are you waiting for? 

CONTAMINATION CREW 



Toss it overboard!" 

"Fine! And what happens to the 
next party it happens to land on? 
\A^e're supposed to be altruists, re- 
member? We're supposed to worry 
about the health of the Galaxy." 
Jenkins shook his head. "Whatever 
we do with it, we have to find out 
just what we're tossing before we 
toss." 

The creature had made itself at 
home aboard the Mercy. In the 
spirit of uninvited guests since time 
immemorial, it had established a 
toehold with remarkable asperity, 
and now was digging in for the long 
winter. Drawn to the hydroponic 
tanks like a flea to a dog', the hlorg 
had settled its bulbous pink body 
down in their murky depths with a 
contented gurgle. As it grew larger 
the tank-levels grew lower, the 
broth clearer. 

The fact that the twenty-five 
crewmen of the Mercy depended 
on those tanks for their food sup- 
ply on the four-month run back to 
Hospital Earth didn't seem to 
bother the hlorg a bit. It just sank 
down wetly and began to eat. 

Under Jenkins' whip hand, and 
with Green Doctor Stone's assist- 
ance, the Survey Crew snapped 
into action. Survey was the soul 
and lifeblood of the medical serv- 
ices supplied by Hospital Earth to 
the inhabited planets of the Gal- 
axy. Centuries before, during the 
era of exploration, every Earth ship 
had carried a rudimentary Survey 
Crew — a physiologist, a biochemist, 
an immunologist, a physician — to 
determine the safety of landings on 
unknown planets. Other races were 
more advanced in technological 

49 



and physical sciences, in sales or in 
merchandising — but in the bio- 
logical sciences men of Earth 
stood unexcelled in the Galaxy. It 
was not surprising that their casual 
offerings of medical services wher- 
ever their ships touched had led 
to a growing demand for those 
services, until the first Medical 
Service Contract with Deneb III 
had formalized the planetary 
specialty. Earth had become Hos- 
pital Earth, physician to a Galaxy, 
surgeon to a thousand worlds, mid- 
wife to those susceptible to mid- 
wifery and psychiatrist to those 
whose inner lives zigged when their 
outer lives zagged. 

In the early days it had been a 
haphazard arrangement; but grad- 
ually distinct Services appeared to 
handle problems of medicine, sur- 
gery, radiology, psychiatry and all 
the other functions of a well-ap- 
pointed medical service. Under the 
direction of the Black Service of 
Pathology, Hospital ships and Sur- 
vey ships were dispatched to serve 
as bases for the tiny General 
Practice Patrol ships that answered 
the calls of the planets under Con- 
tract. 

But it was the Survey ships that 
did the basic dirty-work on any 
new planet taken under Contract — 
outlining the physiological and 
biochemical aspects of the races in- 
volved, studying their disease pat- 
terns, their immunological types, 
their susceptibility to medical, 
surgical, or psychiatric treatment. 
It was an exacting service to per- 
form, and Survey did an exacting 
job. 

Now, with their own home base 

50 



invaded by a hungry pink jelly- 
blob, the Survey Crew of the 
Mercy dug in with all fours to find 
a way to exorcise it. 

The early returns were not en- 
couraging. 

Bowman, the anatomist, spent 
six hours with the creature. He'd 
go after the functional anatomy 
first, he thought, as he approached 
the task with gusto. Special organs, 
vital organ systems — after all, 
every Achilles had his heel. Func- 
tional would spot it if anything 
would — 

Six hours later he rendered a 
preliminary report. It consisted of 
a blank sheet of paper and an ex- 
pression of wild frustration. 

"What's this supposed to mean?" 
Jenkins asked. , 

"Just what it says." 

"But it says nothing!" 

"That's exactly what it means." 
Bowman was a thin, wistful-looking 
man with a hawk nose and a little 
brown mustache. He subbed as 
ship's cook when things were slow 
in his specialty. He wasn't a very 
good cook, but what could any- 
one do with the sludge from the 
harvest shelf of a hydroponic tank? 
Now, with the hlorg incumbent, 
there wasn't even any sludge. 

"I drained off a tank and got 
a good look at it before it crawled 
over into the next one," Bowman 
said. "Ugly bastard. But from a. 
strictly anatomical standpoint I 
can't help you a bit." 

Green Doctor Stone glowered 
over Jenkins' shoulder at the man. 
"But surely you can give us some- 
thing" 

Bowman shrugged. "You want it 

ALAN E. NOURSE 



technical?" 

"Any way you like." 

"Your hlorg is an ideal ana- 
moi-ph. A nothing. Protoplasm, just 
protoplasm." 

Jenkins looked up sharply. 
"What about his cellular organiza- 
tion?" 

"No cells," said Bowman. "Un- 
less they're sub-microscopic, and 
I'd need an electron-peeker to tell 
you that." 

"No organ systems?" 

"Not even an integument. You 
saw how slippery he looked? That's 
why. 1'here's nothing holding him 
in hut energy." 

"Now, look," said Stone. "He 
eats, doesn't he? He mtist have 
waste materials of some sort." 

Bowman shook his head unhap- 
pily. "Sorry. No la-ates. No nitrates. 
No CO2. Anyway, he doesn't eat 
because he has nothing to eat with. 
He absorbs. And that includes the 
lining of the tanks, which he seems 
to like as much as the contents. He 
doesn't bore those holes he makes 
— he dissolves them." 

They sent Bowman back to 
quarters for a hot bath and a shot 
of Happy-O and looked up Hrimta, 
the biochemist. 

Hrunta was glaring at paper 
electrophoretic patterns and pulling 
out chunks of hair around his bald 
spot. He gave them a snarl and 
shoved a sheaf of papers into their 
hands. 

"Metabolic survey?" Jenkins 
asked. 

"Plus," said Hrunta. "You're 
not going to like it, either." 

"Why not? If it grows, it metab- 
olizes. If it metabolizes we can 



kill it. Axiom number seventeen, 
])aragraph number four." 

"Oh, it metabolizes, all right, but 
you'd better find yourself another 
axiom, pretty quick." 

"Why?" 

"Because it not only metabolizes, 
it consumes. There's no sign of the 
usual protein-carbohydrate-fat me- 
tabolism going on here. This baby 
has an enzyme system that's straight 
from hell. It bypasses the usual 
metabolic activities that produce 
heat and energy and gets right 
down to basic-basic." 

Jenkins swallowed. "What do 
you mean?" 

"It attacks the nuclear structure 
of whatever matter the creature 
comes in contact with. There's a 
partial mass-energy conversion in 
its rawest form. The creature goes 
after carbon-bearing substances 
first, since the C seems to break 
down more easily than anything else 
— hence its preference for plant and 
animal material over non-C stuff. 
But it can use anything if it has 
to~" 

Jenkins stared at the little bio- 
chemist, an image in his mind of 
the pink creature in the hold, grow- 
ing larger by the minute as it ate 
its way through the hydroponics, 
through the dry stores, through — 

"Is there anything it can't use?" 

"If there is, I haven't found it," 
Hrunta said sadly. "In fact, I can't 
see any reason why it couldn't con- 
sume this ship and everything in it, 
right down to the last rivets — " 



THEY WALKED DOWN to 
the hold for another look at 



CONTAMINATION CREW 



51 



their uninvited guest, and almost 
wished they hadn't. 

It had reached "the size of a 
small hippopotamus, although the 
resemblance ended there. Twenty 
hours had efapsed since the survey 
had begun. The hlorg had used 
every minute of it, draining the 
tanks, engulfing dry stores, devour- 
ing walls and floors as it spread out 
in search of food, leaving trails of 
eroded metal wherever it went. 

It was ugly — ugly in its pink 
shapelessness, ugly in its slimey half- 
sentient movements, in its very pur- 
posefulness. But its ugliness went 
even deeper, stirring primordial 
feelings of revulsion and loathing in 
their minds as they watched it 
oozing implacably across the hold 
to another dry-storage bin. 

Wally Stone shuddered. "It's 
grown." 

"Too fast. Bowman charts it as 
geometric progression." 

Stone scratched his jaw as a 
lone pink pseudopod pushed out 
on the floor toward him. Then he 
leaped forward and stamped on it, 
severing the strand from the body. 

The severed member quivered 
and lay still for a moment. Then it 
flowed back to rejoin the body with 
a wet gurgle. 

Stone looked at his half-dis- 
solved shoe. 

"Egotropism," Jenkins said. 
"Bowman played around with that, 
too. A severed piece will rejoin if 
it can. If it can't it just takes up 
independent residence and we have 
two hlorgs." 

"What happens to it outside 
the ship?" Stone wanted to know. 

"It falls dormant for several 



hours, and then splits up into a 
thousand independent chunks. One 
of the boys spent half of yesterday 
out there gathering them up. I tell 
you, this thing is equipped to sur- 
vive." 

"So are we," said Green Doctor 
Stone grimly. "If we can't out- 
wit this free-flowing gob of obsceni- 
ty, we deserve anything we get. 
Let's have a conference." 

They met in the pilot room. The 
Black Doctor was there; so were 
Bowman and Hrunta. Chambers, 
the physiologist, was glumly clasp- 
ing and unclasping his hands in a 
corner. The geneticist, Piccione, 
drew symbols on a scratch pad and 
stared blankly at the wall. 

Jenkins was saying: "Of course, 
these are only preliminary reports, 
but they serve to outline the prob- 
lem. This is not just an annoyance 
any longer, it's a crisis. We'd all 
better understand that." 

The Black Doctor cut him off' 
with a wave of his hand, and 
glowered at the papers as he read 
them through minutely. As he sat 
hunched at the desk with the black 
cowl of his office hanging down 
from his shoulders he looked like 
a squat black judge, Jenkins 
thought, a shadow from the In- 
quisition, a Passer of Spells. But 
there was no medievalism in Black 
Doctor Neelsen. In fact, it was for 
that reason, and only that reason, 
that the Black Service had come 
to be the leaders and the whips, 
the executors and directors of all 
the manifold operations of Hospital 
Earth. 

The physicians of the General 
ALAN E. NOURSE 



Practice Patrol were fledglings, 
newly trained in their specialties, 
inexperienced in the rigorous dis- 
cipline of medicine that was re- 
quired of the directors of perma- 
nent Planetary Dispensaries in the 
heavily populated systems of the 
Galaxy. On outlying worlds where 
little was known of the ways of 
medicine, the temptation was great 
to substitute faith for knowledge, 
cant for investigation, nonsense 
rituals for hard work. But the 
physicians of the Black Service 
were always waiting to jerk wan- 
dering neophytes back to the scien- 
tific disciplines that made the serv- 
ice of Hospital Earth so effective. 
The Black Doctors would not 
tolerate sloppiness. "Show me the 
tissue, Doctor," they would say. 
"Prove to me that what you say 
is so. Prove that what you did was 
valid medicine . . ." Their labora- 
tories were the morgues and autop- 
sy rooms of a thousand planets, the 
Temples of Truth from which no 
physician since the days of Pasteur 
and Lister could escape for long 
and retain his position. 

The Black Doctors were the 
pragmatists, the gadffys of Hospital 
Earth. 

For this reason it was surprising 
to hear Black Doctor Neelsen say- 
ing, "Perhaps we are being too 
scientific, just now. When the 
creature has exhausted our food 
stores, it will look elsewhere for 
food. Perhaps we must cut at the 
tree and not at the root." 

"A frontal attack?" said Jenkins. 

"Just so. Its enzyme system is 
its vulnerabihty. Enzyme systems 
operate under specific optimum 

CONTAMINATION CREW 



conditions, right? And every known 
enzyme system can be inactivated 
by adverse conditions of one sort 
or another. A physical approach 
may tell us how in this case. Mean- 
while we will be on emergency 
rations, and hope that we don't 
starve to death finding out." The 
Black Doctor paused, looking at 
the men around him. "And in case 
you are thinking of enlisting help 
from outside, forget it. I've sent 
plague-warnings out for Galactic 
relay. We have this thing isolated, 
and we're going to keep it that 
way as long as I command this 
ship." 

They went gloomily back to their 
laboratories to plan their frontal 
attack. 

That was the night that Hrunta 
disappeared. 



HE WAS GONE when they 
came to wake him from his 
sleep period. His bunk had been 
slept in, but he wasn't in it. In 
fact, he wasn't anywhere on the 
ship. 

"But he couldn't just vanish!" 
the Black Doctor burst out when 
they told him the news. "Maybe 
he's hiding somewhere. Maybe this 
business was working on his mind." 

Green Doctor Stone took a crew 
of men to search the ship again, 
even though he considered it a 
waste of precious time. He had his 
private convictions about where 
Hrunta had gone. 

So did every other man on the 
ship, including Jenkins. 

The hlorg had stopped eating. 
Huge and round and wet and ugly, 

53 



it squatted in the after hold, quiver- 
ing gently, without any other sign 
of life. 

Surfeited. Like a fat man after 
a turkey dinner. 

Jenkins reviewed progress with 
the others. No stone had been left 
unturned. They had sliced the 
hlorg, and squeezed it. They had 
boiled it and frozen it. They had 
dropped chunks of it in acid vats 
and covered other chunks with 
dessicants and alkalis. Nothing 
seemed to bother it. 

A cold environment slowed down 
its activity, true, but it also stimu- 
lated the process of fission. Warmed 
up again, the portions sucked back 
together again and resumed eating. 

Heat was a little more effective, 
but not much. It stunned the 
creature for a brief period, but it 
would not burn. It hissed fright- 
fully and gave off an overpowering 
stench, and curled up at the edges, 
but as soon as the heat was turned 
off it began to recover. 

In Hrunta's lab chunks of the 
hlorg sat in a dozen vats on tables 
and in sinks. Some contained 
antibiotics, some concentrated 
acids, some dessicants. In each vat 
a blob of pink protoplasm wiggled 
happily, showing no sign of dis- 
comfiture. On another table were 
the remains of Hrunta's (unsuc- 
cessful) attempt to prepare an anti- 
hlorg serum. 

But no Hrunta. 

"He was down there with the 
thing all day," Bowman said sadly. 
"He felt it was his responsibility, 
really. Hrunta thought biochemis- 
try was the answer to all things, of 
course. Very conscientious man." 

54 



"But he was in bed." 

"He claimed he did his best 
thinking in bed. Maybe he had a 
brainstorm and went down to try 
it out, and — " 

"Yes." Jenkins nodded sourly. 
"And." He walked down the row 
of vats. "You'd think that at least 
concentrated sulphuric would des- 
sicate it a little. But it's just formed 
a crust of coagulated protein 
around itself, and sits there — " 

Bowman peered over his shoul- 
der, his mustache twitching. "But 
it does dessicate." 

"If you use enough long enough." 

"How about concentrated hydro- 
chloric?" 

"Same thing. Maybe a little 
more effective, but not enough to 
count." 

"Okay. Next we try combina- 
tions. There's got to be something 
the wretched beast can't tolerate — " 

There was, of course. 

Green Doctor Stone brought it 
to Jenkins as he was getting ready 
to turn in for a sleep period. 
Jenkins had checked to make sure 
double guards were posted in the 
hlorg's vicinity, and jolted them 
with Sleep-Not to keep them on 
their toes. All the same, he tied a 
length of stout cord around his 
ankle just to make sure he didn't 
do any sleepwalking. He was tying 
it to the bunk when Stone came 
in with a pan in his hand and a 
peculiar look on his face. 

"Take a look at this," he said. 

Jenkins looked at the sickly 
brown mass in the tray, and then 
up at Stone. "Where did you find 
it?" 

ALAN E. NOURSE 



"Down in the hold. Our lilorg 
has broken precedent. It's rejected 
something that it ate." 

"Yeah. What is it?" 

"I don't know. I'm taking it to 
Neelsen for paraffin sections. But 
I know what it looks like to me." 

"Mm. I know." Jenkins felt sick. 
Stone headed up to the path lab, 
leaving the Red Doctor settled in 
his bunk. 

Ten minutes later Jenkins sat 
bolt upright in the darkness. Fran- 
tically he untied himself and slid 
into his clothes. "Idiot!" he growled 
to himself. "Seventh son of a 
seventh son — " 

Five minutes later he was star- 
ing at the vats in Hnmta's labora- 
tory. He found the one he was 
looking for. A pink blob of hlorg 
wiggled slowly around the bottom. 

Jenkins drew a beaker of distilled 
water and added it to the fluid in 
the vat. It hissed and sputtered 
and sent up quantities of acrid 
steam. When the steam had cleared 
away, Jenkins peered in eagerly. 

The pink thing in the bottom was 
turning a sickly violet. It had quit 
wiggling. As Jenkins watched, the 
violet color changed to mud grey, 
then to black. He prodded it with 
a stirring rod. There was no re- 
sponse. 

With a whoop Jenkins buzzed 
Bowman and Stone. "We've got it!" 
he shouted to them when they ap- 
peared. "Look! Look at it!" 

Bowman poked and probed and 
broke into a wide grin. The piece of 
hlorg was truly and sincerely dead. 
"It inactivates the enzyme system, 
and renders the base protoplasm 
vulnerable to anything that nor- 

CONTAMINATION CREW 



mally attacks it. \Vhat are we wait- 
ing for?" 

They began tearing the labora- 
tory apart, searching for the right 
bottles. The supply was discourag- 
ingly small, but there was some in 
stock. The three of them raced 
down the corridor for the hold 
where the hlorg was. 

It took them three hours of angry 
work to exhaust the supply. They 
whittled chunks off the hlorg, 
tossed them in pans of the deadly 
fluid. With each slice they stopped 
momentarily to watch it turn 
violet, then black, as it died. The 
hlorg, dwindling in size, sensed the 
attack and slapped frantically at 
their ankles, sending out angry 
plumes of wet jelly, but they ducked 
and dodged and whittled some 
more. The hlorg quivered and gur- 
gled and wept pinkish goo all over 
the floor, but it grew smaller and 
weaker with every whack. 

"Hrunta must have spotted it 
and come down here alone," 
Jenkins panted between slices. 
"Maybe he slipped, lost his foot- 
ing, I don't know — " 

They continued to work until 
the supply was exhausted. They had 
reduced the hlorg to a quarter its 
previous size. "Check the other labs, 
see if they have some more," said 
Stone. 

"I already have," Bowman said. 
"They don't. This is it." 

"But we haven't got it all killed. 
There's still — " He pointed to the 
thing quailing in the corner. 

"I know. We're licked, that's all. 
There isn't any more of the stuff 
on the ship." 

They stopped and looked at each 

55 



other suddenly. Then Jenkins said: 
"Oh, yes there is." 

There was silence. Bowman 
looked at Stone, and Stone looked 
at Bowman. They both looked at 
Jenkins. "Oh, no. Sorry. I decline." 
Stone shook his head slowly. 

"But we have to! There's no 
other way. If the enzyme system is 
inactivated, it's just protoplasm^ 
there's no physiological or biochem- 
ical reason — " 

"You know what you can do 
with your physiology and biochem- 
istry," Bowman said succinctly. 
"You can also count me out." He 
left them and the hatchway clanged 
after him. 

"Wally?" 

"Yeah." 

"It'll be months before we get 
back to Hospital Earth. We know 
how we can hold it in check until 
we get there." 

"Yeah." 

"Well?" 

Green Doctor Wally Stone 
sighed. "Greater love hath no 
man," he said wearily. "We'd better 
go tell Neelsen, I guess." 



BLACK DOCTOR Turvold 
Neelsen's answer was a flat, 
unequivocal no. "It's monstrous 
and preposterous. I won't stand 
for it. Nobody will stand for it." 

"But you have the proof in your 
own hands," Jenkins said. "You 
saw the specimen that the Green 
Doctor brought you." 

Neelsen hunched back angrily. 
"I saw it." 

"And your impression of it? As 
a pathologist?" 

56 



"I fail to see how my impression 
applies one way or the other- — " 

"Doctor, sometimes we have to 
face facts. Remember?" 

"All right." Neelsen seemed to 
curl up into himself still further. 
"The specimen was stomach." 

"Human stomach?" 

"Human stomach." 

"But the only human on this 
ship that doesn't have a stomach is 
Hrunta," said Jenkins. 

"So the hlorg ate him." 

"Most of him. Not quite all. It 
threw out the one part of him it 
couldn't eat. The part containing 
a substance that inactivated its 
enzyme system. Dilute hydrochloric 
acid, to be specific. We used the 
entire ship's supply, and cut the 
hlorg down to three quarters size, 
but we need a continuous supply 
to keep it whittled down until we 
get home. And there's only one 
good, permanent, reliable source 
of dilute hydrochloric acid on board 
this ship — " 

The Black Doctor's face was 
purple. "I said no," he choked. "My 
answer stands." 

The Red Doctor sighed and 
turned to Green Doctor Stone. "All 
right, Wally," he said. 

(From the files of the Medical 
Disciplinary Board, Hospital Earth, 
op. cit.) 

I am certain that you can see 
from the foregoing that a reason- 
able effort was made by Green 
Doctor Stone and myself to put 
the plan in effect peaceably and 
with full approval of our com- 
mander. It was our conviction, 
however, that the emergency nature 

ALAN E. NOURSE 



of the circumstances required that 
it be done with or without his 
approval. Our subsequent success 
in containing the hlorg to at least 
reasonable and managable propor- 
tions should bear out the wisdom of 
our decision. 

Actually, it has not been as bad 
as one might think. It has been 
necessary to confine the crew to 
their quarters, and to restrain the 
Black Doctor forcibly, but with 
liberal use of Happy-O we can oc- 
casionally convince ourselves that 
it is rare beefsteak, and the Green 
Doctor, our pro-tem cook has con- 
cocted several very tasty sauces, 
such as mushroom, onion, etc. VVe 
reduce the hlorg to half its size 
each day, and if thoroughly heated 
the chunks lie still on the plate for 
quite some time. 

No physical ill effects have been 



noted, and the period of quarantine 
is recommended solely to allow the 
men an adequate period for phy- 
chological recovery. 

I have only one further recom- 
mendation: that the work team 
from the Grey Service be recalled 
at once from their assignment on 
Mauki IV. The problem is decided- 
ly not psychiatric, and it would be 
one of the tragedies of the ages if 
our excellent psychiatric service 
were to succeed in persuading the 
Maukivi out of their 'delusion'. 

After all, Hospital Earth cannot 
afford to jeopardize a Contract — 
(Signed) Samuel B. Jenkins, 
Physician Grade VI 
Red Service 
GPP Ship Lancet 
(Attached GSS Mercy 
pro tem) END 



A New Theme — One Never Before 
Explored in Science Fiction 

AN EXCITING new novelette in which Frank Riley again turns 
to the legal field as a background. You remember The Cyber 
and Justice Holmes — but this time Mr. Riley's theme is a star- 
tlingly new one, one which has never before been explored in 
science fiction. The title is A Question of Identity, and it poses a 
question of human identity, in all its legal, emotional and social 
aspects, that has no precedent. The editors of IF are proud to 
present A Question of Identity, confident that you will find it 
the most fascinating, unusual and thought-provoking science 
fiction stories of 1958. It will be published in the April issue. 
Don't miss it. Ask your news dealer to reserve your copy. 



CONTAMINATION CREW 



57 



History was repeating itself; there were moats and 
nobles in Pennsylvania and vassals in Manhattan 
and the barbarian hordes were overrunning the land. 



IT WAS JUST as he saw The Barbarian's squat black tankette 
lurch hurriedly into a nest of boulders that young Giulion 
Geoffrey realized he had been betrayed. With the muzzle of his 
own cannon still hot from the shell that had jammed The Bar- 
barian's turret, he had yanked the starboard track lever to wheel 
into position for the fin- 
ishing shot. All around 
him, the remnants of 

The Barbarian's invad- m 1_ M ■_ • 

ing army were being cut IfliG DfllfOfll^lQIlS 

to flaming ribbons by the 
armored vehicles of the 
Seaboard League. The 

night was shot through gy JOHN SENTRY 

by billows of cannon fire_, 
and the din of laboring 
engines, guns, and rent 
metal was a cacophonic 

climax to the Seaboard League's first decisive victory over the 
inland invaders. Young Geoffrey could justifiably feel that he 
would cap that climax by personally accounting for the greatest 
of the inland barbarians; The Barbarian general himself. He 
trained his sights on the scarlet bearpaw painted on the skewed 
turret's flank, and laid his hand on the firing lever. 

Out of the corner of his eye, he caught a glimpse of another 
tankette rushing up on his port side. He glanced at it, saw its 
graceful handicrafting, and knew it for one of the League's own. 
He could even see the insigne; the mailed heel trampling a stand 
of wheat; Harolde Dugald, of the neighboring fief. Geoffrey was 
on coldly polite terms with Dugald — he had no use for the other 
man's way of treating his serfs — and now he felt a prickle of 

58 




Illustrated by Ed Emsh 



indignant rage at this attempt to 
usurp a share of his glory. He saw 
Dugald's turret begin to traverse, 
and hastily tried to get the finish- 
ing shot into The Barbarian's 
tankette before the other Leagues- 
man could fire. But Dugald was not 
aiming for The Barbarian. First he 
had to eliminate Geoffrey from the 
scene entirely. When he fired, at 
almost point-blank range, the 
world seemed to explode in 
Giulion's eyes. 

Somehow, no whistling shard of 
metal actually hit him. But the 
tankette, sturdy as it was, could not 
hope to protect him entirely. He 
was thrown viciously into the air, 
his ribs first smashing into the side 
of the hatch, and then he was 
thrown clear, onto the rocky ground 
of the foothills; agonized, stunned 
to semi-consciousness, he lay feebly 
beating at his smoldering tunic 
while Dugald spun viciously by 
him, almost crushing him under 
one tread. He saw Dugald's tank- 
ette plunge into the rocks after 
The Barbarian, and then, suddenly, 
the battle was beyond him. Dugald, 
The Barbarian; all the thundering 
might that had clashed here on the 
eastern seaboard of what had, long 
ago, been The United States of 
America — all of this had suddenly, 
as battles will, whirled off in a new 
direction and left Giulion Geoffrey 
to lie hurt and unconscious in the 
night. 

He awoke to the trickle of cold 
water between his teeth. His lips 
bit into the threaded metal of a 
canteen top, and a huge arm sup- 
ported his shoulders. Broad shoul- 

60 



ders and a massive head loomed 
over him against the stars. A rum- 
bling, gentle voice said: "All right, 
lad, now. swallow some before it's 
all wasted." 

He peered around him in the 
night. It was as still as the bottom 
of a grave. Nothing moved. He 
drew a ragged breath that ended in , 
a sharp gasp, and the rumbling 
voice said: "Ribs?" 

He nodded and managed a 
strangled "Yes." 

"Shouldn't wonder," the stran- 
ger grunted. "I saw you jx)p out 
of your tank like a cork coming out 
of a wine bottle. That was a fair 
shot he hit you. You're lucky." A 
broad hand pressed him down as 
the memory of Dugald's treachery 
started him struggling to his feet. 
"Hold still, lad. We'll give you a 
chance to catch your breath and 
wrap some bandages around you. 
You'll live to give him his due, but 
not tonight. You'll have to wait for 
another day." 

There was something in the 
stranger's voice that Geoffrey rec- 
ognized for the quality that made 
men obey other men. It was com- 
petence, self-assurance, and, even 
more, the calm expression of good 
sense. Tonight, Geoffrey needed 
someone with that quality. He sank 
back, grateful for the stranger's 
help. "I'm Giulion Geoffrey of 
Geoffrion," he said, "and indebted 
to you. Who are you, stranger?" 

The darkness rumbled to a deep, 
rueful laugh. "In these parts, lad, 
I'm not called by my proper name. 
I'm Hodd Savage — the Barbarian. 
And that was a fair knock you gave 
me." 

JOHN SENTRY 



Young Geoffrey's silence lasted 
for a long while. Then he said in a 
flat, distant voice: "Why did you 
give me water, if you're going to 
kill me anyway?" 

The Barbarian laughed again, 
this time in pure amusement. "Be- 
cause I'm not going to kill you, ob- 
viously. You're too good a cannon- 
eer to be despatched by a belt 
knife. No — no, lad, I'm not plan- 
Tiing to kill anyone for some time. 
All I want right now is to get out 
of here and get home. I've got an- 
other army to raise, to make up for 
this pasting you Leaguesmen have 
just given me." 

"Next time, you won't be so 
lucky," Geoffrey muttered. "We'll 
see your hide flapping in the rain, 
if you're ever foolish enough to raid 
our lands again." 

The Barbarian slapped his thigh. 
"By God," he chuckled, "I knew it 
wasn't some ordinary veal-fed 
princeling that outmaneuvered 
me!" He shook his head. "That 
other pup had better watch out 
for you, if you ever cross his path 
again. I lost him in the rocks with 
ease to spare. Bad luck your shot 
smashed my fuel tanks, or I'd be 
halfway home by now." The rolling 
voice grew low and bitter. "No 
sense waiting to pick up my men. 
Not enough of 'em left to make a 
corporal's guard." 

"What do you mean, if 1 ever 
cross Dugald's path again? I'll have 
him called out ot trial by combat 
the day I can ride a tankette once 
more." 

"I wouldn't be too sure, lad," 
The Barbarian said gently. "What 
does that look like, over there?" 

THE BARBARIANS 



Geoffrey turned his head to fol- 
low the shadowy pointing arm, and 
saw a flicker of light in the distance. 
He recognized it for what it was; a 
huge campfire, with the Leagues- 
men's tankettes drawn up around 
it. "They're dividing the spoils — 
what prisoners there are, to work 
the mills; whatever of your equip- 
ment is still usable; your baggage 
train. And so forth. What of it?" 

"Ah, yes, my baggage train," 
The Barbarian muttered. "Well, 
we'll come back to that. What else 
do you suppose they're dividing?" 

Geoffrey frowned. "Why — noth- 
ing else. Wait!" He sat up sharply, 
ignoring his ribs. "The fiefs of the 
dead nobles." 

"Exactly. Your ramshackle little 
League held together long enough 
to whip us for the first time, but 
now the princelings are dividing up 
and returning to their separate 
holdings. Once there, they'll go 
back to peering cove1<)usly at each 
other's lands, and maybe raid 
amongst themselves a little, until I 
come back again. And you're as 
poor as a churchmouse at this mo- 
ment, lad — no fief, no lands, no 
title — unless there's an heir?" 

Geoffrey shook his head distract- 
edly. "No. I've not wed. It's as you 
say." 

"And just try ,to get your prop- 
erty back. No — no, it won't be so 
easy to return. Unless you'd care to 
be a serf on your own former hold- 
ing?" 

"Dugald would have me killed," 
Geoffrey said bitterly. 

"So there you are, lad. The only 
advantage you have is that Dugald 
thinks you're dead already — you 

61 



can be sure of that, or it would 
have been an assassin, and not me, 
that woke you. That's something, at 
least. It's a beginning, but you'll 
have to lay your plans carefully, 
and take your time. I certainly 
wouldn't plan on doing anything 
until your body's healed and your 
brain's had time to work." 

Young Geoffrey blinked back the 
tears of rage. The thought of losing 
the town and lands his father had 
left him was almost more than his 
hot blood could stand. The mem- 
ory of the great old Keep that 
dominated the town, with its tapes- 
tried halls and torchlit chambers, 
was suddenly very precious to him. 
He felt a sharp pang at the thought 
that he must sleep in a field to- 
night, like some skulking outlaw, 
v/hile Dugald quite possibly got 
himself drunk on GeofFrion wine 
and snored his headache away on 
the thick furs of Geoffrey's bed. 

But The Barbarian was right. 
Time was needed — and this meant 
that, to a certain extent at least, his 
lot and Savage's were thrown in to- 
gether. The thought came to Geof- 
frey that he might have chosen a 
worse partner. 

"Now, lad," The Barbarian said, 
"as long as you're not doing any- 
thing else, you might as well help 
me with my problem." 

The realization of just exactly 
who this man was came sharply 
back to young Geoffrey. "I won't 
help you escape to your own lands, 
if that's what you mean," he said 
quickly. 

"I'll take good care of that my- 
self, when the time comes," the 
man answered drily. "Right now, 

62 



I've got something else in mind. 
They're dividing my baggage train, 
as you said. Now, I don't mind 
that, seeing as most of it belonged 
to them in the first place. I don't 
mind it for this year, that is. But 
there's something else one of you 
cockerels will be wanting to take 
home with him, and I've a mind 
not to let him. There's a perfectly 
good woman in my personal trailer, 
and I'm going to get her. But if 
we're going to do that and get clear 
of this country by morning, we'd 
better get to it." 

Like every other yotmg man of 
his time and place, Geoffrey had a 
clear-cut sense of duty regarding 
the safety and well-being of ladies. 
He had an entirely different set of 
attitudes toward women who were 
not ladies. He had not the slightest 
idea of which to apply to this case. 

What sort of woman would The 
Barbarian take to battle with him? 
What sort of women would the in- 
land barbarians have generally? He 
had very little knowledge to go on. 
The inlanders had been appearing 
from over the westward mountains 
for generations, looting and pillag- 
ing almost at will, sometimes stay- 
ing through a winter but usually 
disappearing in the early Fall, 
carr)dng their spoils back to their 
mysterious homelands on the great 
Mississippi plain. The seaboard 
civilization had somehow kept 
from going to its knees, in spite of 
them — in this last generation, even 
though the barbarians had The 
Barbarian to lead them, the Sea- 
board League had managed to cob- 
ble itself together — but no one, in 
all this time, had ever actually 

JOHN SENTRY 



learned, or cared, much about 
these vicious, compactly organized 
raiders. Certainly no one had 
learned anything beyond those 
facts which worked to best advan- 
tage on a battlefield. 

So, young Giulion Geoffrey faced 
his problem. This 'perfectly good 
woman' of The Barbarian's — was 
she in fact a good woman, a lady, 
and therefore entitled to aid in ex- 
tremity from any and all gentle- 
men; or was she some camp fol- 
lower, entirely worthy of being con- 
sidered a spoil of combat? 

"Well, come on, Lad," The Bar- 
barian rumbled impatiently at this 
point. "Do you want that Dugald 
enjoying her tonight along with 
everything else?" 

And that decided GeofTrey. He 
pushed himself to his feet, not lik- 
ing the daggers in his chest, but not 
liking the thought of Dugald's 
pleasures even more. "Let's go, 
then." 

"Good enough. Lad," The Bar- 
barian chuckled. "Now let's see 
how quietly we can get across to 
the edge of that fire." 

They set out — none too quietly, 
with The Barbarian's heavy bulk 
lurching against Geoffrey's lean 
shoulder on occasion, and both of 
them uncertain of their footing in 
the darkness. But they made it 
across without being noticed — just 
two more battle-sore figures in a 
field where many such might be ex- 
pected — and that was what 
counted. 

The noise and confusion attend- 
ant on the dividing of the spoils 
was an added help; they reached 
the fringes of the campfire easily. 

THE BARBARIANS 



IT WAS VERY interesting, the 
way history had doubled back on 
itself, like a worm re-growing part 
of its body but re-growing it in the 
wrong place. At one end of the 
kink — of the fresh, pink scar — was 
a purulent hell of fire and smoke 
that no one might have expected 
to live through. Yet, people had, as 
they have a habit of doing. And at 
the other end of the kink in time — 
Giulion Geoffrey's end, Harolde 
Dugald's time, The Barbarian's 
day — there were keeps and moats 
in Erie, Pennsylvania, vassals in 
New Brunswick, and a great stink- 
ing warren of low, half-timbered 
houses on the island of Manhattan. 
If it had taken a few centuries 
longer to recover from the cauteriz- 
ing sun bombs, these things might 
still have been. But they might have 
had different names, and human 
history might have been considered 
to begin only a few hundred years 
before. Even this had not hap- 
pened. The link with the past re- 
mained. There was a narrow, cob- 
bled path on Manhattan, with sew- 
age oozing down the ditch in its 
center, wfiich was still Fifth Ave- 
nue. It ran roughly along the same 
directions as old Broadway, not be- 
cause there was no one who could 
read the yellowed old maps but be- 
cause surveying was in its second 
childhood. There was a barge run- 
ning between two ropes stretched 
across the Hudson, and this was 
The George Washington Bridge 
ferry. So, it was only a kink in his- 
tory, not a break. 

But Rome was not re-built in a 
day. Hodd Savage — The Barbarian, 
the man who had come out of the 

63 



Iiinterlands to batter on civiliza- 
tion's badly mortared walls — 
clamped his hand on Giulion Geof- 
frey's arm, grunted, jerked his head 
toward the cluster of nobles stand- 
ing beside the campfire, and mut- 
tered: "Listen." 

Geoffrey listened. 

The nobles were between him 
and the fire, and almost none of 
them were more than silhouettes. 
Here and there, a man faced to- 
ward the fire at such an angle that 
Geoffrey could make out the thick 
arch of an eyebrow, the jut of a 
cheek, or the crook of a nose. But 
it was not enough for recognition. 
All the nobles were dressed in bat- 
tle accoutrements that had become 
stained or torn. Their harness had 
shifted, their tunics were askew, 
and they were bunched so closely 
that the outline of one man blended 
into the mis-shaped shadow of the 
next. The voices were hoarse from 
an afternoon's bellowing. Some 
were still drunk with the acid fire 
of exhausted nerves, and were loud. 
Others, drained, mumbled in the 
backgi'ound like a chorus of the 
stupid. Gesticulating, mumbling, 
shouting, shadowed, lumped into 
one knot of blackness lighted by a 
ruddy cheekbone here, a gleaming 
brow there above an eyesocket as 
inky and blank as a bottomless pit, 
they M'ere like something out of the 
wan and misty ages before the 
Earth had had time to form com- 
pletely. 

Two arguing voices rose out of 
the mass: 

"Those three barbarian tankettes 
are mine., I say!" 

"Yours when I lie dead!" 



"They surrendered to me!" 

"Because I pounded them into 
submission." 

"Into submission, indeed! You 
skulked around their flanks like a 
lame dog, and now that I've taken 
them, you want your bone!" 

"You were glad enough to see 
me there when the battle was hot. 
Call me a dog again and I'll spit 
>ou like a rat on a pitchfork." 

No one else in the group of 
nobles paid the two of them any 
attention. No one had time to spare 
for any quarrel but his own, and 
the whole squabbling pile of them 
looked ready to fly apart at any mo- 
ment—to draw sidearms and knives 
and flare into spiteful combat. 

The Barbarian spat quietly. 
"There's your Seaboard League, 
Lad. There's your convocation of 
free men. Step out there and ask for 
your lands back. Care to try?" 

"We've already decided that 
wouldn't be wise," Geoffrey said 
iiritably. He had never cared much 
for these inevitable aftermaths to 
battle, but it made him angry to 
have an inland barbarian make 
pointed comments. "I suppose it's 
different when you win, eh?" 

"Not very. But then, we're not 
civilized. Let's get moving. Lad." 

Silently, they skirted the fire and 
made their way toward the parked 
vehicles of The Barbarian's cap- 
tured supply train. The ground was 
rough and covered by underbrush. 
More than once. The Barbarian 
stumbled into Geoffrey, making 
him clench his jaw against the pain 
in his chest. But he saw no point 
in saying anything about it. 

"There she is," The Barbarian 



64 



JOHN SENTRY 



said in a husky growl. Geoffrey 
peered through the brush at an 
armored trailer whose flat sides 
were completely undecorated ex- 
cept for a scarlet bearpaw painted 
on the door. A lantern gleamed 
behind the slit windows, and The 
Barbarian grunted with satisfac- 
tion. "She's still in there. Fine. We'll 
have this done in a couple of 
seconds." 

In spite of the incongruity, 
Geoffrey asked curiously: "What's 
a second?" 

"A division of time, Lad — one 
sixtieth of a minute." 

"Oh. What on Earth would you 
want to measure that accurately 
for?" 

"For getting women out of trail- 
ers in a hurry. Lad. Now — let's look 
for sentries." 

There were two guarding the 
trailer — men at arms from Du- 
gald's holding, Geoffrey noticed — 
carrying shotguns and lounging in 
the shadows. One of them had a 
wineskin — Geoffrey heard the gur- 
gle plainly — and the other was con- 
stantly turning away from the trail- 
er to listen to the shrieks and shout- 
ing coming from among the other 
vehicles of the train, where other 
guards were not being quite as 
careful of their masters' new prop- 
erty. 

"I see they've found the quarter- 
master's waggons," The Barbarian 
said drily. "Now, then, Lad — you 
work away toward the right, there, 
and I'll take the left. Here — take 
my knife. I won't need it." The 
Barbarian passed over a length of 
steel as big as a short-sword, but 

THE BARBARIANS 



oddly curved and sharpened down 
one side of the blade. "Stab if you 
can, but if you have to cut, that 
blade'll go through a man's fore- 
arm. Remember you're not holding 
one of those overgrown daggers of 
yours." 

"And just why should I kill a 
man for you?" 

"Do you think that man won't 
try to kill you?" 

Geoffrey had no satisfactory an- 
swer to that. He moved abruptly 
off into the brush, holding The Bar- 
barian's knife, and wondering just 
how far he was obligated for a 
bandaged chest and half a pint of 
water. But a man's duty to his res- 
cuer was plain enough, and, be- 
sides, just what else was there to 
do? 

The blame for it all went square- 
ly back to Dugald, and Geoffrey 
did not love him for it. He slipped 
through the bushes until he was 
only a few yards from the man who 
had the wineskin, and waited for 
The Barbarian to appear at the 
opposite end of the trailer. 

When it happened, it happened 
quite suddenly, as these things will. 
One moment the other sentry was 
craning his neck for another look at 
what was going on elsewhere. The 
next he was down on his knees, 
croaking through a compressed 
throat, with The Barbarian's arm 
under his chin and a driving knee 
ready to smash at the back of his 
neck again. 

Geoffrey jumped forward, to- 
ward his own man. The man at 
arms had dropped his wineskin in 
surprise and was staring at what 
was happening to his comrade. 

65 



When he heard Geoffrey come out 
of the underbrush, the face he 
turned was white and oddly dis- 
tended with shock, as though all 
the bones had drained out of it. He 
might have appeared fierce enough, 
ordinarily. But things were happen- 
ing too fast for him. 

Geoffrey had never killed any- 
one but a noble in his life. Not in- 
tentionally and at close range, in 
any case. The completely bafHed 
and helpless look of this one some- 
how found time to remind him that 
this was not, after all, one of his 
peers — that the man was hopelessly 
outclassed in fair combat — or in 
anything else, for that matter. 
Geoffrey did not stop to weigh the 
probity of this idea. It was the cen- 
tral tenet of his education and en- 
vironment. Furthermore, there was 
some truth in it. 

He couldn't kill the man. He 
swept up his arm and struck the 
flat of The Barbarian's broad knife 
against the side of the guard's head, 
and bowled the man over with his 
rush. But the guard had a hard 
skull. He stared up with glazed but 
conscious eyes, and squalled: 
"Lord Geoffrey!" Geoffrey hit him 
again, and this time the guard 
stayed down, but the damage was 
done. Scrambling to his feet, Geof- 
frey ran over to The Barbarian, 
who was letting the other guard 
ooze to the ground. 

"We'll have to hurry!" Geoffrey 
panted. "Before that man comes 
back to his senses." 

The Barbarian gave him a dis- 
gusted look, but nodded. "Hurry 
we shall." He lurched to the trailer 
door and slapped it with the flat 

66 



of his hand. "Let's go, Myka." 

There was a scrambling sound 
inside the trailer, and the light 
went out. The door slid open, and 
Geoffrey found himself staring at 
the most beaiitifid woman he had 
ever seen. 

She was lithe almost to the point 
of boyishness, even though she was 
clearly some years older than Geof- 
frey. She had short hair the color 
of hammered copper, high cheek- 
bones, and tawny eyes. She was 
wearing a tunic and short trousers, 
and there was an empty pistol hol- 
ster strapped around her waist. Ob- 
viously, she was not a lady. But it 
was much too late for Geoffrey to 
care about that. She stopped in 
the doorway, shaking her head 
slowly at The Barbarian. "I swear, 
Hodd," she said in a low, laughing 
voice, "one of these days you won't 
come back from the dead, and I'll 
be surprised." 

"It was close enough, this time," 
The Barbarian growled. He jerked 
his head toward Geoffrey. "That 
young buck over there knows how 
to handle his enemies. Once he 
learns what to do about his friends, 
I may have to retire." 

Myka arched her burning eye- 
brows. "Oh? What's the story be- 
hind that, I'd like to know." 

"We can always talk," Geoffrey 
said a little edgily. "But we can't 
always find an empty tankette." 

"Quite right. Lad," The Bar- 
barian said. "I saw some vehicles 
parked over that way." 

"Those belong to the nobles. 
There ought to be some captured 
ones of yours somewhere around 
here." 

JOHN SENTRY 



"With plenty of guards on them. 
No thanks." 

"That didn't trouble you earlier." 

"Myka, as you may have noticed, 
is more than a tank. This time the 
prize isn't worth it. I'd rather just 
slip over to where I can get trans- 
portation for the choosing." 

"Not with my help." 

The Barbarian looked at him 
and grunted. He seemed oddly dis- 
appointed. "I would have bet the 
other way," he muttered. Then the 
shaggy head rose, and he circled 
Myka's waist with one arm. "All 
right, I'll do it without your help." 

"Is Myka trained to drive a 
tankette and fight at the same 
time?" 

"No." 

"Then you'd better do it my way. 
You'd make a poor showing, kick- 
ing drive levers with a broken leg." 
Geoffrey nodded toward The Bar- 
barian's right shin. "It's been that 
way since before you picked me up, 
hasn't it? I saw it wobble when you 
kneed that man at arms." 

Myka looked at The Barbarian 
sharply, worry on her face, but the 
man was chuckling. "All right. 
Bucko, we'll do it your way." 

"Fine." Geoffrey wasn't so sure 
it was. Suddenly he was committed 
not only to helping The Barbarian 
escape, but also to escape with him. 
He was faintly surprised at himself. 
But there was something about the 
man. Something worth saving, no 
matter what. And there was the 
business now of having been recog- 
nized. Once Dugald learned he was 
still alive, there would be a con- 
siderable amount of danger in stay- 
ing in the vicinity. Of course, he 

THE BARBARIANS 



had only to stoop over the uncon- 
scious guard with The Barbarian's 
knife . . . 

With a quick motion, he tossed 
the weapon back to its owner. 

That one was an easy choice, 
Geoffrey thought. Simply stealing 
— or was it recapturing? — a tank- 
ette and using it to drive away with 
Myka and The Barbarian didn't 
mean he had to go all the way to 
the barbarian lands with them. Let 
the guard revive and run to Du- 
gald with the news. All Geoffrey 
had to do was to remove himself a 
few miles, find shelter, and bide his 
time. 

One recaptured barbarian tank- 
ette might not even be missed. And 
the guard might not be believed — 
well, that was a thin hope — but, in 
any case, no one had any reason to 
suspect The Barbarian was still 
alive. There'd be no general pur- 
suit. 

Well . . . maybe not. There was a 
man at arms choked to death, by 
a stronger arm than Geoffrey's, and 
it was The Barbarian's woman who 
would be missing. There might be 
quite a buzz about that. 

Geoffrey shook his head in im- 
patient annoyance. This kind of 
life demanded a great deal more 
thinking than he was accustomed 
to. All these unpredictable factors 
made a man's head spin. 

And then again, maybe they 
didn't. The thing to do was to act, 
to do what would get him out of 
here now, and leave him free to- 
morrow to do whatever thinking 
tomorrow demanded. With a little 
practice, too, thinking would un- 
doubtedly come more easily. 

67 



"All right," he said decisively, 
"let's get moving over in that di- 
rection, and see if the guards 
haven't gotten a little careless." He 
motioned to Myka and The Bar- 
barian, and began to lead the way 
into the underbrush. He thrust out 
a hand to pull a sapling aside, and 
almost ran full-tilt into Harolde 
Dugald. 

Dugald was almost exactly Geof- 
frey's age and size, but he had 
something Geoffrey lacked — a thin- 
lipped look of wolfish wisdom. His 
dark eyes were habitually slitted, 
and his mouth oddly off-center, al- 
ways poised between a mirthless 
grin and a snarl. His long black 
hair curled under at the base of 
his skull, and his hands were cov- 
ered with heavy gold and silver 
rings. There was one for each fin- 
ger and thumb, and all of them 
were set with knobby precious 
stones. 

His lips parted now, and his long 
white teeth showed plainly in the 
semi-darkness. "I was coming back 
to inspect my prizes," he said in a 
voice like a fine-bladed saw chuck- 
ling through soft metal. "And look 
what I've found." The open mouth 
of his heavy, handmade side pistol 
pointed steadily between Geoffrey's 
eyes. "I find my erstwhile neighbor 
risen from the dead, and in the 
company of a crippled enemy and 
his leman. Indeed, my day is com- 
plete." 

The one thing Geoffrey was not 
feeling was fear. The wire-thin 
strand of his accumulated rage was 
stretched to breaking. Somewhere, 
far from the forefront of his mind, 

68 



he was feeling surjjrise and disap- 
pointment. He was perfectly aware 
of Dugald's weapon, and of what it 
would do to his head at this range. 
But Geoffrey was not stopping to 
think. And Dugald was a bit closer 
to him than he ought to have been. 

Geoffrey's hands seemed to leap 
out. One tore the pistol out of 
Dugald's hand and knocked it spin- 
ning. The other cracked, open- 
palmed, against the other man's 
face, hard enough to split flesh and 
start the blood trickling down Du- 
gald's cheek. The force of the com- 
bined blows sent Dugald stagger- 
ing. He fell back, crashing into a 
bush, and hung against it. Stark 
fear shone in his eyes. He 
screamed: "Dugald! Dugald! To 
me! To me!" 

For a second, ever)'thing went si- 
lent; nobles quarreling, guards 
roistering among the captures — 
sliddenly the battlefield was still. 
Then the reaction to the rallying 
cry set off an entirely different kind 
of hiibbub. The .sound now was 
that of an alerted pack of dogs. 

Once more, Geoffrey swept his 
hand across Dugald's face, feeling 
his own skin break over the 
knuckles. But there was no time for 
anything else. Now they had to 
run, and not in silence. Now 
everything went by the board, and 
the nearest safety was the best. Be- 
hind them as they tore through the 
brush, they could hear Dugald 
shouting: 

"That way! The Barbarian's 
with him!" The Barbarian was 
grunting with every step. Myka was 
panting. Geoffrey was in the lead, 
his throat burning with every 

JOHN SENTRY 



breath, not knowing where he was 
leading them, but trying to skirt 
around the pack of nobles that 
would be running toward them in 
the darkness. 

He crashed against plated metal. 
He peered at it in the absolute 
darkness this far from the fires and 
torches. "Tankette!" he said 
hoarsely. "Empty." They scrambled 
onto it, Geoffrey pulling at The 
Barbarian's arm. "Down, Myka— 
inside. Ought to be room between 
steering posts and motor." He 
pushed the woman down through 
the hatch, and dropped back to 
the ground. He ran to the crank 
clipped to one track housing and 
thrust it into place. "You — you'll 
have to hang onto — turret," he 
panted to The Barbarian. "Help 
me start." He wound furiously at 
the starting crank until he felt the 
flywheel spin free of the ratchet, 
and then engaged the driveshaft. 
The tankette shuddered to the sud- 
den torque. The motor resisted, 
turned its shaft reluctantly, spun 
the magneto, ignited, stuttered, 
coughed, and began to roar. The 
headlights flickered yellowly, 
glowed up to brightness as the en- 
gine built up revolutions. The Bar- 
barian, clinging to the turret with 
one arm, pushed the choke control 
back to halfway and advanced the 
spark. Geoffrey scrambled up the 
sharply pitched rear deck, clawing 
for handholds on the radiator tub- 
ing, and dropped into the turret 
seat. He took the controls, kicked 
at the left side track control with- 
out caring, for the moment, 
whether Myka was in the way or 
not, spun the tankette halfway 

THE BARBARIANS 



round, and pulled the throttle out 
as far as it would go. Its engine 
clamoring, its rigid tracks transmit- 
ting every shock and battering 
them, the tankette flogged forward 
through the brush. There was gun- 
fire booming behind them, and 
there were other motors sputtering 
into life. 

There was no one among the 
nobles to drive as well as Geoffrey 
could — certainly no one who could 
keep up with him at night, in coun- 
try he knew. He could probably de- 
pend on that much. 

He lit the carbide lamp over the 
panel. 

Geoffrey looked at the crest 
worked into the metal, and 
laughed. He had even managed to 
steal Dugald's tankette. 



BY MORNING, they were a 
good fifty miles away from 
where the battle had been fought. 
They were almost as far as the 
Delaware River, and the ground 
was broken into low hills, each a 
little higher than the last. Geoffrey 
had only been this far away from 
his home a few times, before his 
father's death, and then never in 
this direction. Civilization was not 
considered to extend this far inland. 
When a young man went on his 
travels, preparatory for the day 
when he inherited his father's hold- 
ings and settled down to maintain 
them, he went along the coast, per- 
haps as far as Philadelphia or Hart- 
ford. 

Geoffrey had always had a lively 
interest in strange surroundings. He 
had regretted the day his joumey- 

69 



ings came to an end — not that he 
hadn't regretted his father's pass- 
ing even more. Now, as dawn came 
up behind them, he could not help 
turninsf his head from side to side 
and looking at the strangely 
humped land, seeing for the first 
time a horizon which was not flat. 
He foimd himself intrigued by the 
ihoLight that he had no way of 
knowing what lay beyond the next 
hill — that he would have to travel, 
and keep traveling, to satisfy a per- 
petually renewed curiosity. 

All this occupied one part of his 
mind. Simultaneously, he wondered 
how much farther they'd travel in 
this vehicle. The huge sixteen cylin- 
der in-line engine was by now de- 
livering about one-fourth of its 
rated fifty horsepower, with a good 
half of its spark plugs hopelessly 
fouled and the carburetor choked 
by the dust of yesterday's battle. 

They were very low on shot and 
powder charges for the two- 
pounder turret cannon, as well. 
The tankette had of course never 
been serviced after the battle. 
There was one good thing — neither 
had their pursuers'. Looking back, 
Geoffrey could see no sign of them. 
But he could also see the plain im- 
print of the tankette's steel cleats 
stretched out behind them in a 
betraying line. The rigid, unsprung 
track left its mark on hard stone 
as easily as it did in soft earth. The 
wonder was that the tracks had not 
quite worn themselves out as yet, 
thovigh all the rivets were badly 
strained and the tankette sounded 
like a barrel of stones tumbling 
downhill. 

The Barbarian had spent the 

70 



night with one arm thrown over 
the cannon barrel and the fingers 
of his other hand hooked over the 
edge of the turret hatch. In spite 
of the tankette's vicious jouncing, 
he had not moved or changed his 
position. Now he raised one hand 
to comb the shaggy hair away from 
his forehead, and there were faint 
bloody marks on the hatch. 

"How much farther until we're 
over the mountains?" Geoffrey 
asked him. 

"Over the — Lad, we haven't 
even come to the beginning of them 
yet." 

GeofTrey grimaced. "Then we'll 
never make it. Not in this vehicle." 

"I didn't expect to. We'll walk 
until we reach the pass. I've got a 
support camp set up there." 

"Walk? This is impossible coun- 
try for people on foot. There are in- 
transigent tribesmen all through 
this territory." 

"How do you know?" 

"How do I know? Why, every- 
body knows about them!" 

The Barbarian looked at him 
thoughtfully, and with Just the 
faintest trace of amusement. "Well, 
if everybody knows they're intransi- 
gent, I guess they are. I guess we'll 
just have to hope they don't spot 
us." 

Geoffrey was a little nettled by 
The Barbarian's manner. It wasn't, 
after all, as if anybody claimed 
there were dragons or monsters or 
any other such oceanic thing living 
here. This was good, solid fact — 
people had actually come up here, 
tried to bring civilization to the 
tribes, and failed completely. They 
were, by all reports, hairy, dirty 

JOHN SENTRY 



people equipped with accurate 
rifles. No one had bothered to press 
the issue, because obviously it was 
hardly worth it. Geoffrey had ex- 
pected to have trouble with them 
— but he had expected to meet it in 
an armored vehicle. But now that 
the mountains had turned out to be 
so far away, the situation might 
grow quite serious. And The Bar- 
barian didn't seem to care very 
much. 

"Well, now, Lad," he was say- 
ing, "if the tribesmen're that bad, 
maybe your friends the nobles 
won't dare follow us up here." 

"They'll follow us," Geoffrey 
answered flatly. "I slapped Du- 
gald's face." 

"Oh. Oh, I didn't understand 
that. Code of honor — that sort of 
thing. All the civilized appurte- 
nances." 

"It's hardly funny." 

"No, I suppose not. I don't sup- 
pose it occurred to you to kill him 
on the spot?" 

"Kill a noble in hot blood?" 

"Sorry. Code of honor again. 
Forget I mentioned it." 

Geoffrey rankled under The 
Barbarian's barely concealed 
amusement. To avoid any more of 
this kind of thing, he pointedly 
turned and looked at the terrain 
behind them — something he ought 
to have done a little earlier. Three 
tankettes were in sight, only a few 
miles behind them, laboring down 
the slope of a hill. 

And at that moment, as though 
rivetted iron had a dramatic sense 
of its own, their tankette coughed, 
spun lazily on one track as the 
crankshaft paused with a cam 

THE BARBARIANS 



squarely between positions, and 
burned up the last drops of oil and 
alcohol in its fuel tank. 

Geoffrey and Myka crouched 
down in a brushy hollow. The Bar- 
barian had crawled up to the lip 
of the depression, and was peering 
through a clump of weeds at the 
oncoming trio. "That seems to be 
all of them," he said with a turn 
of his head. "It's possible they kept 
their speed down and nursed them- 
selves along to save fuel. They 
might even have a fuel waggon 
coming up behind them. That's the 
way I'd do it. It would mean these 
three are all we can expect for a 
few hours, anyway, but that they'll 
be heavily reinforced some time 
later." 

"That will hardly matter," Geof- 
frey muttered. Myka had found 
Dugald's personal rifle inside the 
tankette. Geoffrey was rolling car- 
tridges quickly and expertly, using 
torn up charges from the turret 
cannon. He had made the choice 
between a round or two for the 
now immobile heavy weapon and a 
plentiful supply for the rifle, and 
would have been greatly surprised 
at anyone's choosing differently. 
The Barbarian had not even ques- 
tioned it, and Myka was skillfully 
casting bullets witK the help of the 
hissing alcohol stove and the bullet 
mold included in the rifle kit. There 
was plenty of finely ground prim- 
ing powder, and even though Geof- 
frey was neither weighing the 
charges of cannon powder nor 
measuring the diameter of the car- 
tridges he was rolling, no young 
noble of any pretensions whatso- 

71 



ever could not have done the same. 

The rub lay in the fact that none 
of this was liable to do them much 
good. If they were to flee through 
the woods, there would certainly be 
time for only a shot or two when 
the tribesmen found them. If the 
rifle was to be used against the 
three nobles, then it was necessary, 
in all decency, to wait until the 
nobles had stopped, climbed out of 
their tankettes, equipped them- 
selves equally, and a mutual ground 
of battle had been agreed upon. In 
that case, three against one would 
make short work of it. 

The better chance lay with the 
woods and the tribesmen. It was 
the better chance, but Geoffrey did 
not relish it. He scowled as he 
dropped a primer charge down the 
rifle's barrel, followed it with a car- 
tridge, took a cooled bullet from 
Myka, and tamped it down with 
the ramrod until it was firmly 
gripped by the collar on the car- 
tridge. He took a square of clean 
flannel from its compartment in 
the butt and carefully wiped the 
lenses of the telescopic sight. 

"Can I stop now?" Myka asked. 

Geoffrey looked at her sharply. It 
had never occurred to him that the 
woman might simply be humoring 
him, and yet that was the tone her 
voice had taken. Truth to tell, he 
had simply handed her the stove, 
pig lead, and mold, and told her 
to go to work. 

He looked at her now, remem- 
bering that he'd been hurried and 
possibly brusque. It ought not to 
matter — though it did — since she 
was hardly a lady entitled to cour- 
tesy. She hardly looked like any- 



thing, after hours crouched inside 
the tankette. 

Her copper hair was smeared 
with grease, disarranged, and even 
singed where she had presumably 
leaned against a hot fitting. Her 
clothes were indescribably dirty and 
limp with perspiration. She was 
quite pale, and seemed to be fight- 
ing nausea — hardly surprising, with 
the exhaust fumes that must have 
been present in the compartment. 

Nevertheless, her hair glinted 
where the sun struck it, and her 
litheness was only accented by the 
wrinkled clothing. Over-accented, 
Geoffrey thought to himself as he 
looked at the length of limb re- 
vealed by her short trousers. 

He flushed. "Of course. Thank 
you." He looked at the pile of fin- 
ished bullets. There were enough of 
them to stand off an army, pro- 
vided only the army did not shift 
about behind rocks and trees as 
the tribesmen did, or was not equal- 
ly armed, as the nobles would be. 
Yet, a man had to try to the end. 
"You don't expect this to do much 
good," he said to the woman. 

Myka grinned at him. "Do you?" 

"No, frankly. But why did you 
help me?" 

"To keep you busy." 

"I see." He didn't. He scooped 
the bullets up, put them in one 
pocket, and dropped the cartridges 
in another. He stood up. 

"There wasn't any point in let- 
ting you get nervous," Myka ex- 
plained. "You can be quite a deadly 
boy in action, if what I've seen 
and heard about you is any indica- 
tion. I didn't want you killing any 
of our friends," She was smiling at 

JOHN SENTRY 



him without any malice whatso- 
ever; rather, with a definite degree 
of fondness. Geoffrey did not even 
feel resentful at this business of 
being casually managed, as though 
he were liable to do something 
foolish. 

But he scrambled up to a place 
beside The Barbarian in a burst 
of tense movement, and looked out 
toward the approaching tankettes. 
What Myka had just said to him, 
and the cryptic smile on the Bar- 
barian's face, and a thought of 
Geoffrey's own, had all fitted them- 
selves together in his mind. 

There was no reason, really, to 
believe that barbarians would be 
hostile to barbarians, and certainly 
the inland raiders could not have 
returned .year after year without 
some means of handling the 
mountain tribes. Friendship, or at 
least an alliance, would be the 
easiest way. 

And out on the slope of the 
nearest hill, bearded men in home- 
spun clothing were rolling boulders 
down on the advancing tankettes. 

The slope of the hill was quite 
steep, and the boulders were mas- 
sive. They tumbled and bounded 
with a speed that must have seemed 
terrifying from below. Tearing 
great chunks out of the earth, they 
rumbled down on the tankettes 
while the tribesmen yelled with 
bloodcurdling ferocity and fired on 
the tankettes with impossible 
rapidity. With respectable marks- 
manship, too. The nobles were 
swerving their vehicles frantically 
from side to side, trying to avoid 
the boulders, but their ability to 
do so was being destroyed by bullets 

THE BARBARIANS 



that ricocheted viciously off the 
canted forepeak plating. All three 
of them were blundering about 
like cattle attacked by stinging in- 
sects. Only the lead tankette was 
still under anything like intelligent 
control. It lurched away from three 
boulders in succession, swinging on 
its treads and continuing to churn 
its way up the hillside. 

Geoffrey saw the other two tank- 
ettes struck almost simultaneously. 
One took a boulder squarely be- 
tween its tracks, and stopped in a 
shower of rock fragments. The 
track cleats bit futilely at the 
ground. The vehicle stalled, the 
boulder jammed against it. The im- 
pact did not seem to have been 
particularly severe; but the entire 
body of the tankette had been 
buckled and accordioned. Possibly 
only the boulder's own bulk be- 
tween the tracks had kept them 
from coming together like the knees 
of a gored ox. It was impossible to 
tell where, in that crushed bulk, 
the turret and its occupant might 
be. 

The other tankette took its 
boulder squarely in the flank. It 
began to roll over immediately, 
hurtling back down the hill, its 
driver half in and half out of its 
turret at the beginning of the first 
roll. Tankette and boulder came to 
rest together at the bottom of the 
hill, the stone nosing up against 
the metal. 

Geoffrey looked at the scene 
with cold fury. "That's no fitting 
way for a noble to die!" 

The Barbarian, who was 
sprawled out and watching calm- 
ly, nodded his head. "Probably 

7$ 



not," he said dispassionately. "But 
that other man's giving a good ac- 
count of himself." 

The remaining tankette was al- 
most in among the tribesmen. It 
had passed the point where a rolling 
boulder's momentum would be 
great enough to do much damage. 
As Geoffrey watched, the man in 
the turret yanked his lanyard, 
and a solid shot boomed through 
the straggled line of bearded men. 
If it had been grape or canister, 
it might have done a good deal of 
damage. But the cannon had been 
loaded with Geoffrey's tankette in 
mind, and the tribesmen only 
jeered. One of them dashed for- 
ward, under the cannon's smoking 
muzzle, and jammed a wedge- 
shaped stone between the left side 
track and the massive forward track 
roller. The track jammed, broke, 
and whipped back in whistling 
fragments. The tankette slewed 
around while the unharmed tribes- 
man danced out of the way. The 
noble in the turret could only watch 
helplessly. Apparently he had no 
sidearm. Geoffrey peered at him 
as the tribesmen swarmed over the 
tankette and dragged him out of 
the turret. It was Dugald, and 
Geoffrey's arm still tingled from 
the slap that had knocked the 
pistol irretrievably into the night- 
shadowed brush at the battlefield. 

"What are they going to do to 
him?" he asked The Barbarian. 

"Make him meet the test of 
fitness, I suppose." 

"Fitness?" 

Geoffrey did not get the answer 
to his question immediately. The 
woods all around him were stir- 



ring, and bearded men in home- 
spun, carrying fantastic rifles, were 
casually walking toward him. The 
Barbarian pushed himself up to his 
feet without any show of surprise. 

"Howdy,"' he said. "Figured you 
were right around." 

One of the tribesmen — a gaunt, 
incredibly tall man with a grizzled 
beard — nodded. "I seen you makin' 
signs while you was hangin' off 
that tank, before. Got a mark?" 

The Barbarian extended his right 
arm and turned his wrist over. A 
faint double scar, crossed at right 
angles, showed in the skin. 

The tribesman peered at it and 
grunted. "Old one." 

"I got it twenty years ago, when 
I first came through here," The 
Barbarian answered. 

"Double, too. Ain't many of 
those." 

"My name's Hodd Savage." 

"Oh," the tribesman said. His 
entire manner changed. Without 
becoming servile, it was respectful. 
He extended his hand. "Sime 
Weatherby." He and The Barbarian 
clasped hands. "That your woman 
down there?" the tribesman asked, 
nodding toward Myka. 

"That's right." 

"Good enough." For the first 
time, Weatherby looked directly at 
Geoffrey. "What about him?" 

The Barbarian shook his head. 
"No mark." 

The tribesman nodded. "I 
figured, from the way he was 
actin'." He seemed to make no 
particular signal — perhaps none 
was needed — but Geoffrey's arms 
were suddenly taken from behind, 
and his wrists were tied. 



74 



JOHN SENTRY 



"We'll see if he can get him a 
mark today," Weatherby said. He 
looked to his left, where other men 
were just pushing Dugald into the 
ring they had formed aroimd the 
group. "Seein' as there's two of 
them, one of 'em ought to make 
it." 

Geoffrey and Dugald stared ex- 
pressionlessly at each other. The 
Barbarian kept his eyes on Geof- 
frey's face. "That's right," he said. 
"Can't have two men fight to the 
death without one of them coming 
out alive, usually." 



THE TRIBESMEN lived in 
wooden cabins tucked away 
among trees and hidden in narrow 
little valleys. GeofTrey was sur- 
prised to see windmills, and wire 
fencing for the cattle pastures that 
adjoined their homes. He was even 
more interested in their rifles, 
which, the tribesmen told him, 
were repeaters. He was puzzled by 
the absence of a cylinder, such as 
could be found on the generally 
unreliable revolvers one saw oc- 
casionally. 

The tribesmen were treating 
both him and Dugald with a com- 
plete absence of the savagery he 
expected. They were being perfect- 
ly matter-of-fact. If his hands had 
not been tied, Geoffrey might not 
have been a prisoner at all. This 
puzzled him as well. A prisoner, 
after all, could not expect to be 
treated very well. True, he and 
Dugald were nobles, but this could 
not possibly mean anything to 
persons as uncivilized as mountain 
tribesmen. 



Yet somehow, the only thing 
that was done was that all of them ; 
the tribesmen, The Barbarian, My- 
ka, Dugald and he — made their 
way to Weatherby's home. A num- 
ber of the tribesmen continued on 
their way from there, going to 
their own homes to bring their 
families to watch the test. The re- 
mainder stayed behind to post 
guard. Dugald was put in one room, 
and Geoffrey in another. The Bar- 
barian and Myka went off some- 
where with Weatherby — presum- 
ably to have breakfast. Geoffrey 
could smell food cooking, some- 
where toward the back of the 
house. The smell sat intolerably on 
his empty stomach. 

He sat for perhaps a half hour 
in the room, which was almost bare 
of furniture. There was a straight- 
backed chair, in which he sat, a 
narrow bed, and a bureau. Even 
though his hands were still tied 
behind his back, he did his best 
to search the room for something 
to help him — though he had no 
idea of what he would do next 
after he managed to escape from 
the room itself. 

The problem did not arise, be- 
cause the room had been stripped 
of anything with a sharp edge on 
which to cut his lashings, and of 
anything else he might put to use. 
These people had obviously held 
prisoners here before. He sat back 
down in his chair, and stared at 
the wall. 

Eventually, someone opened the 
door. Geoffrey looked over, and 
saw that it was The Barbarian. 
He looked at the inlander coldly, 
but The Barbarian did not seem 



THE BARBARIANS 



75 



to notice. He sat down on the edge 
of the bed. 

"On top of everything else," he 
began without preamble, "I've just 
finished a hearty breakfast. That 
ought to really make you mad at 
me." 

"I'm not concerned with you, or 
your meals," Geoffrey pointed out. 

The Barbarian's eyes twinkled. 
"It doesn't bother you, my getting 
your help and then not protecting 
you from these intransigent tribes- 
men?" 

"Hardly. I'd be a fool to expect 

it." 

"Would you, now? Look, Bucko 

—these people live a hard way of 
life. Living on a mountain is a good 
way not to live comfortably. But 
it's a good way of living your own 
way, if you can stand the gaff. 
These people can. Every one of 
them. They've got their marks to 
prove it. Every last one of them has 
fought it out face to face with an- 
other man, and proved his fitness 
to take up space in this territory. 
See — it's a social code. And they'll 
extend it to cover any stranger who 
doesn't get killed on his way here. 
If you can get your mark, you're 
welcome here for the rest of your 
life. They keep their clan stock 
fresh and vigorous that way. And it 
all has the virtue of being a uni- 
form, just, rigid code that covers 
every man in the group. These bar- 
barian cultures aren't ever happy 
without a good code to their name, 
you know." 

"Yours seems to lack one." 
The Barbarian chuckled. "Oh, 
no. We've got one, all right, or 
you'd never have had me to worry 



you. Nothing we like better than 
a good, talented enemy. You know, 
these people here in the mountains 
used to be our favorite enemies. 
But so many of us wound up getting 
our marks, it just got to be futile. 
Once you're in, you know, you're 
a full-fledged clan member. That 
sort of divided our loyalties. The 
problem just seemed to solve it- 
self, though. We understand them, 
they understand us, we trade back 
and forth . . . hell, it's all one 
family." 

Geoffrey frowned. "You mean— 
they got those rifles from you?" 

"Sure. We're full of ingenuity — 
for barbarians, that is. Not in the 
same class with you seaboard 
nobles, of course, but we poke 
along." The Barbarian stood up, 
and his expression turned serious. 
"Look, Son — you remember that 
knife of mine you borrowed for a 
while? I'll have to lend it to you 
again, in about twenty minutes. 
Your friend Dugald's going to have 
one just like it, and your left arms 
are going to be tied together at 
the wrists. I hope you remember 
what I happened to tell you about 
how to use it, because under the 
rules of the code, I'm not allowed 
to instruct you." 

And Geoffrey was left alone. 

There was a hard-packed area 
of dirt in front of Weatherby's 
home, and now its edges were 
crowded with tribesmen, many of 
whom had brought their women 
and children. Weatherby, together 
with a spare, capable-looking wo- 
man, and with The Barbarian and 
(Continued on page 113) 



76. 



flijfi;iii'''ii''-'" 



M 



MM 



Ml, .il^'ll!' t'l,.'i,"l', 

,'^iliif!iMiHiiii|'i.. 



mm 




BY ARTHUR C. CLARKE 




No phenomenon? Then was 
it a massive life that sped — 



OUT 



FROM 



THE SUN 



IF YOU HAVE only lived on 
Earth, you have never seen the 
Sun. Of course, we could not look 
at it directly, but only through 
dense filters that cut its rays down 
to endurable brilliance. It hung 
there forever above the low, jagged 
hills to the west of the Observatory, 
neither rising nor setting, yet mov- 
Illustrated by Virgil Finlay ing round a small circle in the sky 

77 



during the 88-day year of our little 
world. For it is not quite true to 
say that Mercury keeps the same 
face always turned towards the 
Sun; it wobbles slightly on its axis, 
and there is a narrow twilight belt 
which knows such terrestrial com- 
monplaces as dawn and sunset. 

We were on the edge of Mercu- 
ry's twilight zone, so that we could 
take advantage of the cool shadows 
yet could keep the Sun under con- 
tinuous surveillance as it hovered 
there above the hills. It was a full- 
time job for fifty astronomers and 
other assorted scientists; when 
we've kept it up for a hundred 
years or so, we may know some- 
thing about the small star which 
brought life to Earth. 

There wasn't a single band of 
solar radiation that someone at the 
Observatory had not made a life's 
study and was watching like a 
hawk. From the far X-rays to the 
longest of radio waves, we had 
set our traps and snares; as soon 
as the Sun thought of something 
new, we were ready for it. So we 
imagined . . . 

The Sun's flaming heart beats 
in a slow, 11 -year rhythm, and we 
were near the peak of the cycle. 
Two of the greatest spots ever re- 
corded—each of them large enough 
to swallow a hundred Earths — had 
drifted across the disc like great 
black funnels piercing deeply into 
the turbulent outer layers of the 
Sun. They were black, of course, 
only by contrast with the brilliance 
all around them; even their dark, 
cool cores were hotter and brighter 
than an electric arc. We had just 
watched the second of them dis- 

78 



appear round the edge of the disc, 
wondering if it would survive to 
reappear two weeks later, when 
something blew up on the Equator. 

It was not too spectacular at 
first, partly because it was almost 
exactly beneath us — at the precise 
center of the Sun's disc — and so 
was merged into all the activity 
around it. If it had been near the 
edge of the Sun, and thus pro- 
jected against the background of 
space, it would have been truly 
awe-inspiring. 

Imagine the simultaneous ex- 
plosion of a million H-bombs. You 
can't? Nor can anyone else— but 
that was the sort of thing we were 
watching climb up toward us at 
hundreds of miles a second, straight 
out of the Sun's spinning equator. 
At first it formed a narrow jet, but 
it was quickly frayed round the 
edges by the magnetic and gravita^ 
tional forces that were fighting 
against it. The central core kept 
right on, and it was soon obvious 
that it had escaped from the Sun 
completely and was headed out in- 
to space— with us as its first target. 

Though this had happened half 
a dozen times before, it was always 
exciting. It meant that we could 
capture some of the very substance 
of the Sun as it went hurtling past 
in a great cloud of electrified gas. 
There was no danger; by the time 
it reached us it would be far too 
tenuous to do any damage, and 
indeed it would take sensitive in- 
struments to detect it at all. 

One of those instruments was 
the Observatory's radar, which was 
in continual use to map the invisi- 
ble ionized layers that surround the 

ARTHUR C. CLARKE 



Sun for millions of miles. This was 
my department; as soon as there 
was any hope of picking up the on- 
coming cloud against the solar 
background, I aimed my giant 
radio mirror toward it. 

It came in sharp and clear on the 
long-range screen — a vast, lumi- 
nous island still moving outward 
from the Sun at hundreds of miles 
a second. At this distance it was im- 
possible to see its finer details, for 
my radar waves were taking min- 
utes to make the round trip and to 
bring me back the information 
they were presenting on the screen. 
Even at its speed of not far short 
of a million miles an hour, it would 
be almost two days before the 
escaping prominence reached the 
orbit of Mercury and swept past 
us towards the outer planets. But 
neither Venus nor Earth would re- 
cord its passing, for they were no- 
where near its line of flight. 

The hours drifted by; the Sun 
had settled down after the immense 
convulsion, that had shot so many 
millions of tons of its substance in- 
to space, never to return. The after- 
math df that eruption was now a 
slowly twisting and turning cloud 
a hundred times the size of Earth, 
and soon it would be close enough 
for the short-range radar to reveal 
its finer structure. 

Despite all the years I have 
been in the business, it still gives 
me a thrill to watch that line of 
light paint its picture on the screen 
as it spins in synchronism with 
the narrow beam of radio waves 
from the transmitter. I sometimes 
think of myself as a blind man, ex- 

OUT FROM THE SUN 



ploring the space around him with 
a stick that may be a hundred mil- 
lion miles in length. For man is 
truly blind to the things I study; 
these great clouds of ionized gas 
moving far out from the Sun are 
completely invisible to the eye and 
even to the most sensitive of photo- 
graphic plates. They are ghosts 
that briefly haunt the Solar System 
during the few hours of their ex- 
istence; if they did not reflect our 
radar waves, or disturb our mag- 
netometers, we should never know 
that they were there. 

The picture on the screen looked 
not unlike a photograph of a spiral 
nebula, for as the cloud slowly 
rotated it trailed ragged arms of 
gas for ten thousand miles around 
it. Or it might have been a ter- 
restrial hurricane that I was watch- 
ing from above, as it spun through 
the atmosphere of Earth. Its in- 
ternal structure was extremely com- 
plicated, and was changing minute 
by minute beneath the action of 
forces which we have never fully 
understood. Rivers of fire were 
flowing in curious paths under 
what could only be the influence 
of electric fields ; but why were they 
appearing from nowhere and dis- 
appearing again as if matter was 
being created and destroyed? And 
what were those gleaming nodules, 
larger than the Moon, that were 
being swept along like boulders be- 
fdre a flood? 

Now it was less than a million 
miles away; it would be upon us 
in little more than an hour. The 
automatic cameras were recording 
every complete sweep of the radar 
scan, storing up evidence which 

79 



was to keep us arguing for years. 
The magnetic disturbance riding 
ahead of the cloud had already 
reached us ; indeed, there was hard- 
ly an instrument in the Observator)' 
that was not reacting in some way 
to the onrushing apparition. 

I switched to the short-range 
scanner, and the image of the cloud 
expanded so enormously tliat only 
its central portion was on the 
screen. At the same time I began to 
change frequency, tuning across the 
spectrum to differentiate between 
the various levels. The shorter the 
wavelength, the further you can 
penetrate into a layer of ionized 
gas; by this technique I hoped to 
get a kind of X-ray picture of the 
cloud's interior. 

It seemed to change before my 
eyes as I sliced down through the 
tenuous outer envelope with its 
trailing arms, and approached the 
denser core. "Denser", of course, 
was a purely relative word; by ter- 
restrial standards even its most 
closely-packed regions were still a 
fairly good vacuum. I had almost 
reached the limit of my frequency 
band, and could shorten the wave 
length no further, when I noticed 
the curious, tight little echo not 
far from the centre of the screen. 



IT WAS OVAL, and much more 
sharp-edged than the knots of gas 
we had watched adrift in the 
cloud's fiery streams. Even in that 
first glimpse, I knew that here was 
something very strange, and out- 
side all previous records of solar 
phenomena. I watched it for a 
dozen scans of the radar beam, then 

SO 



called my assistant away from the 
radio-spectrograph with which he 
was analysing the velocities of the 
swirling gas as it spun toward us. 

"Look, Don," I asked him, "have 
you ever seen anything like that?" 

"No," he answered after a care- 
ful examination. "What holds it 
together? It hasn't changed its 
shape for the last two minutes." 

"That's what puzzles me. What- 
ever it is, it should have started 
to break up by now with all that 
disturbance going on around it. But 
it seems as stable as ever." 

"How big would you say it is?" 

I switched on the calibration 
grid and took a quick reading. 

"It's about five hundred miles 
long, and half that in width." 

"Is this the largest picture you 
can get?" 

"I'm afraid so. We'll have to 
wait until it's closer before we can 
see what makes it tick." 

Don gave a nervous little laugh. 

"This is crazy," he said, "but do 
you know something? I feel as if 
I'm looking at an amoeba imder 
a microscope." 

I did not answer; for with what 
I can only describe as a sensation 
of intellectual vertigo, exactly the 
same thought had entered my mind. 

We forgot about the rest of the 
cloud, but luckily the automatic 
cameras kept up their work and 
no important observations were 
lost. From now on we had eyes 
only for that sharp-edged lens of 
gas that was growing minute by 
minute as it raced toward us. 
When it was no further away than 
is the Moon from Earth, it began 
to show the first signs of its internal 

ARTHUR C. CLARKE 



structure, by revealing a curious 
mottled appearance that was never 
quite the same on two successive 
sweeps of the scanner. 

By now, half the Observatory 
staff had joined us in the radar 
room, yet there was complete 
silence as the oncoming enigma 
grew swiftly across the screen. It 
was coming straight toward us; in 
a few minutes it would hit Mercu- 
ry somewhere in the center of 
the day-light side, and that would 
be the end of it— whatever it was. 
From the moment we obtained our 
first really detailed view until the 
screen became blank again could 
not have been more than five 
minutes; for every one of us, that 
five minutes will haunt us all our 
lives. 

We were looking at what seemed 
to be a translucent oval, its interior 
laced with a network of almost 
invisible lines. Where the lines 
crossed there appeared to be tiny, 
pulsing ■ nodes of light; we could 
never be quite sure of their ex- 
istence because the radar took al- 
most a minute to paint the com- 
plete picture on the screen — and 
between each sweep the object 
moved several thousand miles. 
There was no doubt, however, that 
the network itself existed; the 
cameras settled any arguments 
about that. 

So strong was the impression 
that we were looking at a solid 
object, I took a few moments off 
from the radar screen and hastily 
focused one of the optical telescopes 
on to the sky. Of course, there was 
nothing to be seen — no sign of 
anything silhouetted against the 
OUT FROM THE SUN 



Sun's pock-marked disc. This was 
a case where vision failed complete- 
ly and only the electrical senses of 
the radar were of any use. The 
thing that was coming toward us 
out of the Sun was as transparent 
as air — and far more tenuous. 

As those last moments ebbed 
away, I am quite sure that every 
one of us had reached the same 
conclusion — and was waiting for 
someone else to say it first. What 
we were seeing was impossible, yet 
the evidence was there before our 
eyes. We were looking at life, where 
no life could exist . . . 

The eruption, had hurled the 
thing out of its normal environ- 
ment, deep down in the flaming at- 
mosphere of the Sun. It was a 
miracle that it had survived its 
journey through space; already it 
must be dying, as the forces which 
controlled its huge, invisible body 
lost their hold over the electrified 
gas which was its only substance. 

Today, now that I have run 
through those films a hundred 
times, the idea no longer seems so 
strange to me. For what is life but 
organized energy? Does it matter 
zvhat form that energy takes — 
whether it is chemical, as we know 
it on Earth, or purely electrical, as 
it seemed to be here? Only the pat- 
tern is important; the substance it- 
self is of no significance. But at the 
time I did not think of this; I was 
conscious only of a vast and over- 
whelming wonder as I watched 
this creature of the Sun live out 
the final moments of its existence. 

Was it intelligent? Could it im- 
(Conlinued on pa^e 112) 

81 



SECURITY RISK 



BY ED M. CLINTON, JR. 



Illustrated by Ed Emsh 



AT MOMENTS like this, Gen- 
eral David Walker always 
thought fleetingly of the good old 
days when he had hated the army. 
As usual, he smashed the thought 
out of his mind with a distinct sense 
of remorse. 

He looked up again at the 
seamed face of the Chief of Staff, 
General Marcus Meriwether. "This 
could be serious," he said slowly, 
with a sick sense of the statement's 
inadequacy. An old tic suddenly 
returned, tugging at the left corner 
of his mouth. 

The deadly, unsmiling expression 
on Meriwether's face did not 
change as he slid more tightly into 
his chair. "You know as well as I 
that it means the Interplanetary 
Confederation is ready to go to war 
with us." 

Walker stared at the typed state- 
ment on his desk. It was a decoded 
intelligence message from United 
Terra's prime agent in the Inter- 
planetary Confederation," and it 
was very brief: the Confederation 
had developed a long-range neural 
weapon effectively cancelling out 
every armament development 
achieved by United Terra in fifteen 
years of a cold war that of late had 
become bitter cold. The all-but- 
autonomous colonies of Mars and 
Venus, united now for twenty years 
in an economic league, had been 
itching for independence for a 
quarter of a century. The itch had 
developed into a mighty burning. 

"You are fully aware," Meri- 
wether continued, his face still set, 
"of our feeling that the Confedera- 
tion has been eager to take on 
Terra. They've clearly been waiting 



m 




It was a touchable 



touching an untouchable. 



Both scientist and general 



were doing their own 



version of right . . . 



for some positive advantage to off- 
set our pure strength-in-numbers." 

Walker forced his eyes upward 
and stared at his superior. "Your 
tone says that such a war might 
be—" 

"Unwelcome at this time. Un- 
welcome at this time." Meriwether 
shifted around in his chair, and 
scratched at its leather arms with 
the manicured tips of his gnarled 
fingers. "Walker, I don't have to 
tell you that this weapon, if it is 
what our agent infers — and there 
is no reason to believe otherwise — 
that this weapon makes it impossi- 
ble for us to go to war with the 
Confederation — unless, as Chief of 
Weapons Development, you can 
tell me that we have something in 
our arsenal to combat it." 

Walker rubbed at the tic. "Noth- 
ing," he said quietly. 

Meriwether leaned forward, his 
hands crooked backward against 
the chair arms like catapult springs. 
"That answer is unacceptable. 
There are other questions you must 
answer, Walker, questions in some 
ways even more important than 
that basic one. Why haven't we de- 
veloped this weapon ourselves? 
Why haven't we been aware of its 
potential existence? Where are the 
defensive devices which would nat- 
urally develop from such cog- 
nizance? These things are all your 
department, Walker." His voice 
pitched upward an hysterical frac- 
tion. "It just doesn't make sense, 
you know. We've a hundred times 
the personnel, ten times the facili- 
ties, unlimited funds — but they've 
beaten us to it." He stood up and 
pushed his chair back, eyes squint- 

84 



ing out of a reddening face that 
seemed on the point of bursting. 
"Why, Walker?" 

Once again Walker thought 
about how he had hated the army 
when he was a bright young physics 
student. That was a long time ago 
— So much had happened. The 
doors had closed around him, one 
at a time, doors closing on the scien- 
tific mind. And so now, instead of a 
research scientist in white smock 
with textbook, he was a military 
administrator in smart greys with 
glittering stars of military rank. 

"I'll say this, Walker," Meri- 
wether shouted, his voice breaking 
again. "We'd better catch up quick. 
Mighty quick. Let's put it this way. 
It might mean your rank and your 
job. Walker. But you won't give a 
damn. Because we'll have lost the 
war. We'll have lost the colonies. 
And you know what that would 
mean. Walker?" He bent forward 
across the desk, his face exploding 
into Walker's eyes. "Only a fool be- 
lieves that United Terra can sur- 
vive in an economy without tri- 
planetary hegemony. 

"Walker, you've all the authority 
within my power to grant. You'll 
have no trouble getting money. But 
— get the answer. Quick." 

Walker blinked after him as he 
strode to the door. "I'll try to hold 
off a federal investigation as long 
as I can," Meriwether added, turn- 
ing from the half-opened door. 
"But I can't guarantee a thing." 

Walker sat alone in a cubicle of 
light in the darkerted city and 
gulped down his twentieth cup of 
coffee. It had grown cold in the 

ED M. CLINTON, JR. 



cup and with a grimace he pushed 
it aside. 

There was no doubt about it. He 
thumbed through the sheaf of scrib- 
bled notes he had transcribed from 
stacks of documents and racks of 
spools from Security files. Clearly, 
he had the answer to Meriwether's 
questions. But, having it, he did not 
quite know what to do with it. 

There was, however, no doubt at 
all: United Terra had been on the 
track of the neural weapon — ten 
years earlier. Gould have had it — 
and had lost the chance. 

He rubbed his thumbs hard 
against his tired eyes and tried to 
remember back that ten years: at 
that time he had been Chief of 
Weapons Development for perhaps 
three years. His own name, though, 
had appeared in none of the files 
he had examined, so apparently he 
had not been directly involved in 
the security hearings. But he should 
remember. 

Dr. Otto Millet. Otto Millet. He 
let the name roll around his brain, 
until shortly an image began to 
form — an image of a smiling man, 
greying at the temples, wearing a 
flamboyant sports shirt and affect- 
ing a very close haircut. A man per- 
haps forty. In the image, he was a 
laughing man. 

He remembered now. Dr. Otto 
Millet: into government service on 
the inertia of a fantastic reputation 
as a research physicist specializing 
in magnetic field studies. A man he 
had instantly disliked. 

He bent forward and reread 
what he had scrawled in his last 
notes, a verbatim extract from the 
report of the security committee. 

SECURITY RISK 



"It is clear that Dr. Millet's 
conversations and letters with Pro- 
fessor Greyman, together with his 
unrepentant attitude, render him a 
security risk. His various security 
clearances are therefore revoked, 
and he is hereafter prohibited ac- 
cess to all classified files and to any 
government research and develop- 
ment laboratory." 

Since virtually all laboratories 
were government supported, that 
was to all intents and purposes the 
end of Millet's career as an experi- 
mental physicist. 

Where had Millet gone? What 
had he done since? Walker scraped 
a cigarette out of the half-empty 
pack in his pocket. More impor- 
tant: what was he doing now? 

He inhaled deeply and sent 
clouds of smoke skewing across the 
room. Had the man really been a 
traitor? Walker tried to place him- 
self in the time of Millet's hearing. 
He'd been not too many years out 
of school then, with the bitterness 
of his frustrated ambition to be a 
research physicist still rankling him ; 
perhaps this had colored his view 
of Millet. He stared at his desk, 
almost shocked that this thought 
should have occurred to him. It 
shook him, for it told him some- 
thing about himself which he did 
not particularly care to know. 

Nowhere had he been able to find 
any evidence as to what had hap- 
pened to Millet since. Banished, the 
government seemed to forget him. 
But one thing was clear to Walker, 
and he pondered it deeply as he 
sucked on the last quarter-inch of 
his cigarette and poured himself 
another cup of cold black coffee. 

85 



One big thing: Millet had been 
directing development along lines 
that would have led to the neural 
weapon; he had even signed a re- 
port, early in his project effort, 
which had referred to the possibil- 
ity of "a neural device." 

Had he gone over to the Con- 
federation? It would account for 
their possession of the weapon now. 
But surely — surely, this fact would 
have been observed and reported 
Ijy Terran intelligence agents. 

Walker, infinitely tired, forgot his 
coffee and began to tidy up the 
desk, filing everything he wanted to 
keep in an electronically locked 
cabinet, shoving everything else into 
the destruction of the vibrator. He 
pondered for a moment the pow- 
dered secrets that were heaped like 
black dust in the bottom of the can- 
ister: a symbol of safety to a ter- 
rified world. 

Step one: find Millet. Find Mil- 
let. 



IT TOOK THE Secret Service 
exactly twenty-nine hours to lo- 
cate Dr. Otto Millet. Thirty min- 
utes later, Walker was climbing out 
of a government helicopter and 
staring at Millet's small house 
through squinted eyes which he 
shielded with both hands against 
the blazing desert sun. The house 
was fronted by a neat lawn and a 
white fence entwined with red 
roses; there appeared to be a rather 
large garden in the rear. The style 
of the house bothered him a little: 
it had passed out of popularity 
thirty years before. Its lack of a 
conventional roofport had forced 

B6 



them to land the 'copter on the 
desert itself. 

He straightened and pushed 
through the creaking gate. Flag- 
stone steps curved toward the 
porch, and he minced along them, 
uncertain, now that he had arrived, 
of what he would say to Millet. The 
damned house, he thought — so dif- 
ferent from what he had expected; 
it had thrown his whole thinking 
out of order. 

He hated himself for feeling un- 
easy. 

There was neither vodor nor con- 
tact system of any kind at the door, 
and he brushed his hand against his 
forehead in a gesture of frustration. 
He stared at his palm — it had come 
away wet with sweat, and he won- 
dered if it were all because of the 
desert sun. 

Tentatively, he banged on the 
door with his fist. There was no 
answer. 

Damn Millet, he thought, wiping 
his forehead again. Why couldn't 
the man have a videophone like 
any normal person so you could 
find out if he were home without 
taking a trip halfway across the 
country? 

He turned, stamping angrily as 
he did so, and was startled to see a 
man, wearing work clothes and 
holding a pair of heavy soiled gloves 
in his left hand, standing on the 
ground by the end of the porch. He 
was nearly bald, intensely bronzed, 
and he was smiling. 

"Wondered when you'd see me." 
He nodded toward the gate. "I was 
standing right there when you came 
up. You just breezed right past." 
His smile broadened. "You were so 

ED M. CLINTON, JR. 



interested in being surprised that 
you couldn't see what you came 
for." 

"It must have been that damned 
glare," muttered Walker, shaking 
his head. Then, impolitely, "Are 
you Millet?" 

"Otto Millet," the other replied, 
inclining his head slightly. "You're 
from the government. I can tell 
because of the uniform, you see." 
Walker flushed. "The government 
hasn't thought about me in a aum- 
ber of years," the scientist added. 
He came up onto the porch and 
peered at the symbol on the left 
lapel of Walker's jacket. "Ah! Al- 
ma mater. Weapons Development." 
He squinted at Walker. "David 
Walker, I presume?" He chuckled 
loudly but Walker failed to see the 
humor. "I remember you, you see; 
what a shame you can't return the 
compliment." 

"It's hot out here," complained 
Walker, in growing discomfort. 

Millet opened the door. "Won't 
you come in? It's better inside." 

There it was again, thought 
Walker; the insolence, the imper- 
turbable smile. He grunted and 
went in; it was, mercifully, con- 
siderably cooler. 

He looked around. It was a very 
cluttered living room, not messy but 
tossed about with the artifacts that 
the man obviously liked to have 
around him. There was an ancient 
painting by Bonestell hanging on 
one wall, a startlingly accurate 
twentieth-century concept of the 
appeai'ance of Mars; several long 
pipe racks, filled to overflowing, in 
various spots around the room; a 
typewriter on a table in a corner, 

SECURITY RISK 



and piles of paper; books lining the 
walls, and stacked on the floor in 
heaps and on the table beside the 
typewriter; a map of the earth on 
the wall above the typewriter, a 
three-dimensional Waterson projec- 
tion. The furniture was clean but — 
not old; lived with. 

Walker went over to the wall 
map and peered closely. 

"One of Waterson's first," re- 
marked Millet, closing the door. 
"Sit down. Walker, and tell me all 
about Weapons Development. How 
is the mass murder department do- 
ing these days?" 

Walker felt his ears redden and 
he was arrested in the very act of 
sitting down. "Really," he said, "it's 
not something we like to think 
about, you know." 

"Suppose not." Millet fiddled 
with several pipes in a rack beside 
his chair, selected one, and began 
filling it with rough-cut tobacco 
from a battered canister. "To 
business, then. Why the visit?" 

Walker cleared his throat and 
tried to remember the little pref- 
atory weasel words he had painfully 
assembled during the flight from 
Omaha. "First of all. Dr. Millet, I 
find myself a little embarrassed. 
After all, your parting from gov- 
ernment service was not of the hap- 
piest nature for you — " 

"Don't be foolish. Happiest day 
of my life, Walker." 

Walker had a sudden sense of 
being impaled, and the rest of the 
little speech was dissipated in the 
wave of shock which swept over 
him. He forced his mouth shut, and 
gasped, "You're not serious!" 

Millet shook out his second 

87 



match and puffed until the pipe 
bowl glowed warmly, edge to edge. 
"Of course I'm serious." He jabbed 
his pipe at Walker. "You like your 
job?" 

"It's a job that has to be done." 

Millet smiled and shrugged. 
"You haven't really answered my 
question." 

Walker, sensing that he had al- 
ready lost control of the conversa- 
tion, waved his hands in dismissal. 
"Well, that is not really important. 
The fact remains, you did leave 
Weapons Development at the . . . 
ah . . . request of the government." 

"Talk on, talk on — you'll get to 
the point eventually. When you're 
through, I'd like to show you 
around the place. I'm very proud 
of my gardens. You're sort of 
responsible for them, you know." 

Walker set his jaw and bored 
ahead. "However, at the time you 
left government service, you were 
pursuing certain lines of re- 
search — " 

Millet leaned back and began 
laughing, his eyes squinted shut. 
"Walker, don't tell me they want 
me back!" 

It seemed his chance to dominate 
the discussion again. "I don't think 
you'd be allowed back." 

"Good," said Millet, looking up, 
his laughter fading into a smile. 
"I was a bit concerned for a mo- 
ment." 

There was silence in the room. 
Walker began to wish that he were 
somewhere else: Millet simply baf- 
fled him. He obviously did not care 
about his disgrace. Walker felt a 
resurgence of the old resentment. 

Millet's face suddenly became 

88 



very kindly. "Perhaps, as a fellow 
scientist" — Walker almost winced, 
and knew, furiously, that his 
response had shown — "you would 
be interested in knowing what I've 
been doing since my unhappy mar- 
riage with bureaucracy ended." 

It was a welcome gambit, and 
Walker accepted it eagerly. "I cer- 
tainly would. One of the reasons I 
came here, as a matter of fact." 

Millet waved his pipe. "Good. 
Afterwards, you can stop beating 
around the bush, eh?" 

"Yes, of course," mumbled 
Walker. 

"You know," said Millet as he 
got up and went to a bookcase, "a 
man's got to earn a living. Do much 
reading?" 

"Not these days. Used to." He 
scratched a cigarette on the sole of 
his shoe and inhaled hugely. "Not 
enough time these days for read- 
mg. 

Millet reached into the bookcase 
and came out with a stack of maga- 
zines. "Well, that's how I make my 
living." He handed the stack to 
Walker. "Writing. Use a pen name 
of course. He chuckled. "Write 
everything — always happiest doing 
science fiction, though." 

Walker flipped through the 
magazines; he looked up. "Ob- 
viously, you're doing rather well at 
it." 

"Have been for the last seven or 
eight years. Lot of fun." 

"And this has been your life 
since you left us?" Walker set the 
stack of magazines aside. "Seems a 
waste of genius, somehow." 

"As a matter of fact, this is not 
my life's work. As I said, a man's 

ED M. CLINTON, JR. 



got to earn a living. This is just a 
lucrative hobby that pays the way. 
You see, I've been involved in an 
expensive research program." 

"Ah." Walker sat forward and 
smashed out his cigarette. "This 
may be important." 

"Oh, it is, it is. But not, I am 
afraid, in the way you mean." 

"You can never tell. What have 
you been doing?" 

"Completing a unified theory of 
life. Why a crystal grows but isn't 
alive, why an organism that dies 
isn't like a crystal. What is the 
process we call life? What is its re- 
lationship to the space-time con- 
tinuum — " 

He said it so casually that Walker 
was caught off his guard complete- 
ly. "Are you serious, Millet?" he 
said. 

"Certainly. I expect to publish in 
about two years." 

"Is this an independent effort?" 

"Not entirely. Others have con- 
tributed. Some pioneers long dead, 
some among the living." His eyes 
twinkled. "You see, important 
things beside the development of 
weapons of destruction do continue 
in the scientific world. Did you 
think that was the end of every- 
thing for me, ten years ago?" He 
shook his head in mock gravity. "It 
was just the beginning. I wanted 
out, you see." 

"You wanted out?" Walker 
leaned foi-ward, unwilling to be- 
lieve what he had heard. "Are you 
trying to tell me that you arranged 
your discharge?" 

Millet shrugged. "Why, of course. 
Nobody ever has bothered to ask 
me about that up to now, but I 

SECURITY RISK 



certainly did arrange it. It wasn't 
hard, you know. All I had to do 
was set up some sort of relationship 
with a so-called security risk, and I 
was on my way out." 

"Why . . . that's damned near 
treason." 

"Don't be silly. I had other im- 
portant things to do. In order to 
do them — to continue work on the 
unified life theory — it was necessary 
for me to contact scientists with 
whom professional relationships 
were made illegal by security regu- 
lations. The choice was simple; be- 
sides, I didn't enjoy the idea of 
spending my life developing ways 
of destroying the very thing I 
wanted most to understand." 

"This is fantastic, Millet, utterly 
fantastic." 

"But true nonetheless. Walker, 
you look like you could use a 
drink." 

"By all means." He stared empti- 
ly into the air, thinking about the 
good old days. 

"Walker, a toast," said Millet, 
holding a tall glass out to him. "To 
scientific freedom." 

Walker blinked. "By all means," 
he repeated hoarsely, and there was 
a blurriness to his vision. "To sci- 
entific freedom." 

They drank, and Walker said: 
"I feel a bit freer to say what I 
have come for." 

"Shoot," nodded Millet, sipping 
his drink. 

"For security reasons, I'll talk in 
generalities. But the basic fact is, 
tJnited Terra is faced with a serious 
situation. It is most desirable that 
the research you were conducting 
when you left us, be continued." 

89 



"There are a lot of other capable 
physicists, both eager to be a part 
of such activity and blessed with 
security clearances." 

"You know very well. Millet, 
that this was an unique, almost in- 
dependent line of development that 
comes to a stop in your brain. Be- 
sides," and suddenly he felt silly, 
"the lines of communication for re- 
search which might enable us to 
pick up where you left off, in time 
- — too much time — are somewhat 
entangled in security." He glared. 
"Don't laugh. Millet; it's a fact of 
life which must be faced." 

Millet finished his drink and set 
the glass on an end table. "What 
you're doing is asking me to come 
back if you can arrange it." 

Walker spread his hands. "Dr. 
Millet, you have put it in a nut- 
shell." 

Millet shook his head, and for 
the first time since their conversa- 
tion had started he frowned. 
"Walker, you know how I feel 
about developing weapons. I'm just 
plain opposed to it." 

"The soldier is opposed to losing 
his life, but many have to do just 
that in the interests of civilization." 

"That serious, eh?" 

Walker crumpled under the 
weight of his fear. "That serious," 
he said wearily. 

Millet thoughtfully relit his pipe. 
"Of course, I'm not at all sure that 
United Terra is very right in this 
thing." 

"In times like these, that kind of 
thought is out of bounds," snapped 
Walker. "Whether you like it or 
not, you are a part of this culture. 
You might disapprove of many 

90 



things in it, but you don't want to 
see it fall." 

Millet puffed gently. "No, I sup- 
pose not." Again the frown flick- 
ered across his face. "I've been 
very happy. I don't want my work 
interrupted. It's too important. 
Walker." 

"Undoubtedly this would more 
than interrupt your work. It would 
replace it." 

Millet's eyes drifted affectionate- 
ly about the room. "Most unpleas- 
ant." A smile curled his lips. 
"Frankly, though, I don't think you 
can clear me again." 

"My problem." 

"Indeed." A weary resignation 
seemed to settle over Millet, and 
Walker suddenly felt very miser- 
able. "I suppose I'll have to ac- 
cept," Millet said, pulling his pipe 
out of his mouth and staring un- 
happily at its trail of smoke. 

Walker put his hands flat on his 
desk and sighed deeply. Some of 
the pressure, at least, was off; he 
had managed to cancel part of the 
Confederation's advantage. Terran 
industrial strength and technologi- 
cal supremacy, coupled with Mil- 
let's genius, might yet equate, or at 
least circumvent, the frightful 
weapon the Confederation held. 

However, he still had to get Mil- 
let back into the goverrmient. 
Though, on the basis of the infor- 
mation he had gained regarding 
the scientist's motivations, and con- 
sidering the critical nature of the 
situation, it shouldn't be too diffi- 
cult. 

He clicked on his video and 
dialed a secret line into Security 

ED M. CLINTON, JR. 



Data. Gyrating colors danced 
across the screen before it went 
black. He scowled, depressed the 
cancel button, and dialed again; 
this time, the black was finally re- 
placed by a recorded image, which 
said, sweetly out of pouting red 
lips, 

"This line is not cleared for the 
Security Information you seek. The 
problem you are handling should 
be routed through an individual 
permitted access to this informa- 
tion." The image faded into black- 
ness, the sound track into static. 

Walker stared, stupefied. No line, 
no contact, no source of informa- 
tion had been denied to him in over 
twelve years. 

His door swung open; he came 
to his feet abruptly, furious that 
someone should enter unan- 
nounced. 

He felt sickness strike him like a 
fist in the stomach: Meriwether, 
flanked by two security guards, 
pushed through the door. His voice 
slashed across the office Hke a 
broadsword. 

"Walker, I'm shocked. Shocked. 
And at a time like this. . ." 



Walker pounded his desk. "What 
the hell is going on? I can't get 
Security Data, you come marching 
in here with security men . . . what 
gives?" 

Meriwether gestured to the 
guards, and they came forward and 
each took one of Walker's arms. 
"You're out of a job. Walker," 
snarled General Marcus Meri- 
wether. 

"In the name of God, why?" 

"You know very well. Take him 
to security detention. Sergeant." 

And suddenly he knew. Meri- 
wether stared indignantly when he 
started laughing. It was a hell of a 
thing to laugh at, but it was also 
the most hilarious tragedy he ever 
hoped to encounter. 

Millet. Security risk. Untouch- 
able. 

, Millet would finish his great uni- 
fied theory, and go down in history 
as neither Walker nor Meriwether 
nor the genius who invented the 
Confederation's neural weapon 
would. Millet was as safe as he 
could possibly want to be. 

And so was the Interplanetary 
Confederation. END 



FIRST EDITIONS OF IF! 

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your choice of any two of these back issues as a gift! Address Circulation 
Dept., IF Magazine, Kingston, New York. 



SECURITY RISK 



91 



The dilemma of "The Man in the White Suit" was but a minor 



irritation compared to Charles and his "all-weather" suit! 



THE STANDARDIZED MAN 



BY STEPHEN BARTHOLOMEW 



THE TURBOCAR swiped an 
embankment at ninety miles 
an hour; the result was, of course, 
inevitable. It was a magnificent 
crash, and the driver was thrown 
clear at the end of it for a distance 
of 50 feet. 

Charles looked at the body and 
got his bright idea. 

The trouble had started a couple 
of weeks before, when Edwin, 
Charles' laboratory co-ordinator, 
had called him into his office just 
before Charles was due to leave 
for home. It was a distinct breach 
of etiquette to cause a worker to 
arrive home at any time besides his 



accustomed hour, so Charles knew 
whatever Edwin wanted must be 
important. He sat down opposite 
the Co-ordinator and assumed a 
politely questioning look. 

"Charles, you know I wouldn't 
call you here at this hour if it wasn't 
important," Edwin said, pursing 
his lips. 

"Of course not, sir," Charles re- 
plied, waiting. 

"The fact of the matter is, we 
are in dire straits." Edwin stared 
at the other ominously. "As you 
well know, the Textile Industry, 
like every other business firm in 
the world, has functioned entirely 
without economic troubles of any 



92 



sort for the past fifty years." 

"Well, of course, sir . . ." 

"And you are also well aware 
of what would be the results of any 
financial deviation in any of these 
firms, particularly in a major in- 
dustry such as our own." 

"Certainly, sir. Ours is a deli- 
cately balanced economic system. 
Any slight change in the economic 
status of one firm would . . ." 

"Exactly!" Edwin leaned across 
the desk and glared at him. "I have 
just come from a Board of Direc- 
tors meeting. And it was made 
known to us that during the past 
three weeks our margin of profit 
has fallen off by three tenths of a 
per cent!" 

Charles' face turned pasty white. 
He swallowed and took a deep 
breath. 

"Will that information be made 
public, sir?" 

"Naturally not! But we aren't 
sure just how long we can keep it 
a secret! The fact of the matter 
is, the IBM says that our profit 
margin will continue to spiral 
downward at a gradually increas- 
ing rate unless some drastic change 
occurs in our production set-up!" 

Edwin leaned back and clasped 
his hands, composing himself. "The 
precise reasons for the existence of 
the situation are quite obscure. 
However, the IBM has informed us 
that the problem can be remedied 
if we make a particular change 
in our production system, and it 
has informed us as to the nature of 
that change." 

He stood up and placed a finger 
on a capacitance switch. A panel 
in the Wall slid back to reveal six 



sales charts. There were two each 
marked Winter, Summer and 
Spring-Fall. Three were designated 
marlons, and three marilyns. Each 
of them showed a red line rising 
steeply on the left, levelling out to 
a perfectly straight bar all the way 
across, then dipping sharply again. 

"Look here," Edwin said. "These 
are the sales charts for our six 
suits. As you know, we make three 
different types for marlons, and 
three for marilyns. Hot-weather, 
cold-weather, and medium- 
weather. Each suit is designed to 
last a carefully calculated length 
of time, and each consumer need 
only buy three suits a year. They 
are exactly alike except for slight 
size differences, and because of 
elastic fabrics these differences are 
held to a minimum. With this sys- 
tem the Textile Industry attained 
the ultimate in Standardization, 
the ultimate in efficiency." 

Charles rubbed his chin thought- 
fully. "Has the IBM suggested 
any alternative to our system, any 
possible change?" 

Edwin sat down again, folded his 
arms on the desk, and scowled. 
"That's where you come in! The 
IBM informs us that there is only 
one possible way to stabilize our 
economy, to raise our profit margin 
to its former level — and that is by 
further standardization!" 

Charles raised his eyebrows. 
"You mean a sexless wardrobe, sir? 
That's been tried . . ." 

"No, that's not what I mean!" 
Edwin snapped. "What I mean is 
an all-weather suit!" 

Charles swallowed audibly at 
that and said nothing. 



93 



"You can see the advantages, of 
course," Edwin explained. "We'd 
need only to manufacture two types 
of suit, marlon and marilyn. Since 
we'd never have to adjust our fac- 
tories, we could drop a lot of un- 
necessary technicians, and with the 
further standardization, manufac- 
turing would be faster and cheap- 
er — a lot cheaper. The consumer 
would only purchase one suit a 
year, but we could make up for 
that by raising the prices some- 
what." 

Charles finally got a word in. 
"But, sir! An all-weather suit? 
How can we design a suit that will 
be equally comfortable in the mid- 
dle of a Florida heat-wave or a 
New England snowstorm?" 

"How? How?" Edwin's voice 
raised and his finger pointed. 
"You're the research chemist, 
Charles! You're supposed to tell 
me howl" 

"Sir? I . . ." 

"Listen!" Edwin poked the other 
in the chest. "I assume you know 
what will happen to Society if the 
Textile Industry becomes econom- 
ically unstable?" 

"Well, yes sir, but ..." 

"Then I assume you realize that 
the Board of Directors will stop at 
nothing to preserve the status quo! 
And since you happen to be our 
chief industrial chemist, the entire 
problem lands in your lap ! Now, we 
want to know how to make an all- 
weather suit, and we want to know 
fast. Therefore, Charles, you're go- 
ing to tell us how to do it! Under- 
stand?" 

Charles nodded unhappily. "Yes 
sir, I understand." 

94 



CHARLES went to work the 
next day after informing his 
wife that she could expect him to 
begin keeping rather irregular 
hours at the laboratory. The idea of 
any kind of irregularity was enough 
to worry any wife, and Ingrid was 
the naturally suspicious type. 
She was always nagging and had, 
upon occasion, even gone so far as 
to insinuate that Charles had in- 
dividualist tendencies. 

So he knew that she would, em- 
barrassingly, call Edwin to check 
up on him, but he didn't really 
care. 

The real problem was the all- 
weather suit. 

Charles put his small corps of 
assistants on the project, investigat- 
ing several lines of thought at once. 
Every day, someone would drop 
around for a while to check on his 
progress, and he had no delusions 
about what would happen if he 
failed. The entire economic stabil- 
ity of his society depended on his 
coming up with an all-weather suit, 
and he began to have trouble sleep- 
ing nights. 

Eventually, he found what looked 
like a workable solution. 

He called Edwin to tell him 
about it, and Edwin came down to 
the lab to see for himself. 

"Is this it?" he asked, picking up 
what looked like a burlap handker- 
chief. 

Charles cleared his throat. "Well, 
that's the first sample, sir. Of 
course, it's possible to obtain a 
finer weave once we find out a few 
things about it, and when it's 
bleached . . ." 

Edwin nodded impatiently. "Yes, 

STEPHEN BARTHOLOMEW 



yes. Well, what's so special about 
it?" 

"Well, it's made of a radically 
new type of fiber, sir ..." 

"How's it new?" 

"I can show you more technical 
data on it, sir, but basically the 
difference between this and con- 
^'entional types of fiber is that this 
is thermostatic." 

"How do you mean, thermo- 
static?" 

"Well, sir, basically, the diameter 
of the fiber is inversely proportion- 
al with the temperature. When the 
temperature rises, the fiber con- 
tracts, and when the temperature 
drops, it expands. So in cold weath- 
er, you have a fine, tight weave 
with good insulation, and in warm 
weather you have a loose weave 
with ventilation . . ." 

Edwin nodded and dropped the 
fabric on a lab bench. "Sounds 
good." 

"Well sir, we have to make a 
few more tests on it, and it'll have 
to be field tested before we can de- 
cide if it's safe to use in gar- 
ments . . ." 

Edwin tapped him on the shoul- 
der. "Test it, Charlie." 

"Sir?" 

Edwin frowned. "We don't have 
as much time as you think. We 
need that suit of yours fast. We 
can't afford to waste any more 
time puttering around the labor- 
atory. You have the fellows down- 
stairs make up some of this stuff 
into a Standard suit, and I want 
you to put it on yourself. What I 
mean is, today!" 

Charles' jaw dropped. "Today! 
But . . ." 

THE STANDARDIZED MAN 



"No buts! Wear it a couple of 
days, and if you say it checks out, 
we go into production immedi- 
ately." 

So Charles went home that 
night in a new suit and a worried 
frown. 



THINGS WERE smooth for 
about two days. Charles con- 
tinued to wear the suit and Edwin 
insisted on his making the prelim- 
inary preparations for the mass- 
production of thermostatic fabric. 
Charles was kept busy working out 
specifications. 

Then there were two factors 
that brought about a drastic change 
in his life. 

One was that he was worried. 
Charles wasn't exactly sure what 
he was worried about, but at the 
back of his mind there was some- 
thing in the complicated molecular 
structure of the new fiber that 
bothered him. 

The other factor was that Ingrid 
was still nagging him. Perhaps if 
Charles had been able to tell her 
what he was working on she would 
have understood why he was wor- 
ried. But he didn't tell her, and she 
didn't understand. 

One day after Charles had come 
home and eaten,, she started an 
argument with him about some- 
thing or other, and in the most 
heated part of the battle she had 
hurled at him the supreme insult. 

"Charles," she said, "I think you 
look different!" 

Coupled with the strain that 
Charles was under, that had been 
enough to make him stare at In- 

95 



grid for a moment, wheel and stalk 
out of the apartment. 

After all, to say that one's face 
was even subtly different — even if 
it really was — ^was an unforgivable 
insult. 

Charles went out for a long, sol- 
itary evening walk and ended up at 
one of those places that features 
six varieties of beer, a continuous 
floor show and a loud band. Charles 
was not quite aware of entering, 
but once inside, watching the 
bimip-and-grinders who wore noth- 
ing but their name tags, he found it 
difficult to leave. 

The room was just ventilated 
enough to prevent suffocation, but 
it was purposely kept hot and 
stuffy in the hope that this would 
induce thirst on the part of the 
customers. 

When he thought about it later 
he decided it was undoubtedly the 
humidity that had caused the ca- 
tastrophe, but when it happened 
he hadn't the foggiest notion what 
was going on. 

All he knew was that he had 
signalled a waitress for a third 
beer, she had come threading her 
way between the postage-stamp 
tables, he had looked up to give 
his order, she had looked down 
impersonally, and then there was a 
scream. 

It took a moment to realize that 
the waitress was screaming at him, 
and by that time there were shouts 
from the surrounding tables as well, 
and men and women alike were 
stumbling all over themselves to 
get away from Charles. 

In no time at all, there was a 
first-rate riot in progress, then the 

96 



lights went out, and Charles had 
brains enough to fight his way to 
an exit and slip into the dark alley 
outside. 

And then Charles inspected him- 
self and realized the horrible truth. 

The key concept to Charles' so- 
ciety was expressed in the word 
Standardization. Standardization 
had had its beginning in the early 
Industrial Revolution, when men 
first discovered that it was far more 
efficient to make a thousand pieces 
of furniture if you made them all 
exactly alike. 

And since efficiency means eco- 
nomic predictability, and since pre- 
dictability means stability. Stand- 
ardization quickly became the 
watchword in the world's new in- 
dustrial economy. 

So, in time, virtually every prod- 
uct manufactured was standard- 
ized. From the smallest bolts and 
screws in a wristwatch, through 
automobile license plates, to cloth- 
ing styles ; everything manufactured 
was strictly standard equipment. 

Of course, the only unpredict- 
able factor in this structure was the 
human element, therefore the log- 
ical answer was a standardized 
consumer. 

The trend had started, undoubt- 
edly, in Hollywood. The Art of 
Cinematography had not existed 
long before becoming the Motion 
Picture Industry. And, naturally, 
an industry must be efficient. 

The Hollywood tycoons had de- 
cided that the best way to reduce 
the margin of risk on any new 
movie star was to create an arbi- 
trary criterion, and to require the 

STEPHEN BARTHOLOMEW 



potential star to measure up to that 
standard. 

Charles vyas absently aware that 
the female standard of beauty had 
been exemplified by a woman 
named Marilyn, and that the mas- 
culine standard had been repre- 
sented in someone named Marlon. 

So, gradually, all of the new fe- 
male stars that were selected by 
Hollywood resembled Marilyn as 
much as possible, and male leads 
were selected to look like Marlon. 
If anyone had a nose that wasn't 
quite right, or large ears, a little 
plastic surgery quickly remedied 
the problem, and if a female starlet 
happened to have brown hair, per- 
oxide was always handy. 

And in time, it became increas- 
ingly difficult to tell one movie star 
from another. 

Then the standard, idealized 
faces and their standards, idealized 
personal mannerisms became so- 
cially fashionable, and with modern 
cosmetics and readily available 
plastic surgery, the fashionable 
men and women in society began to 
imitate the ideal. 

It became not only fashionable to 
wear the Standard face, but in- 
decent not to do so. Social conform- 
ity was encouraged as much as 
possible, and the end result was the 
closest thing to a Standardized, pre- 
dictable consumer as there ever 
could be. 

This might have produced diffi- 
cult problems, because with all 
women and all men wearing iden- 
tical clothing and identical faces, it 
might have become impossible to 
tell one person from another, which 
was not desirable even in a Stand- 

THE STANDARDIZED MAN 



ardized world. 

Along with the Standard face 
had come name tags by which a 
person might individualize him- 
self to the minimum necessary de- 
gree. 

These name tags were worn 
about the neck on a colorful plastic 
band, with the tag itself, a white 
plastic card, on the right side of the 
neck. On the tag, in gold lettering, 
was the person's name, address, 
and Social Security number. 

And — they were worn all the 
time. 

The name tag was the only 
means by which a person might 
be identified. Without it, anyone 
might impersonate anyone else he 
pleased. So, of course, it became 
obscene to appear in public with- 
out one. 

And Charles, standing in the 
alley, looked down at himself and 
realized the horrible truth. 

He found himself running 
through back streets, sidling around 
corners, and darting into doorways. 

After an hour or two, he realized 
that he was no longer within the 
City Limits. 

Charles took a good look around 
him and discovered he was stand- 
ing on a minor highway just out- 
side of town. There were no cars or 
people in sight, and he dropped 
off the road into some bushes to 
get his wind and think. 

He had known there was some- 
thing wrong with the molecular 
structure of the suit he was wear- 
ing, but Edwin wouldn't listen. 

It had undoubtedly been the 
humidity. The chemical process 

97 



had no doubt been going on since 
he'd first donned the suit, but it 
had been the heat in that beer 
joint that had accelerated the 
action enough to finish the job. 
Human perspiration acting on the 
new fiber in the collar of his suit 
produced some obscure chemical 
reaction which had a corrosive 
effect on the plastic band and plas- 
tic card of his name tag. 

He had to get home, somehow, 
and tell Edwin to hold up produc- 
tion on the new thermostatic suit. 
Perhaps the flaw in it could be 
eliminated in a short time. If it 
couldn't . . . 

He considered. The world Dol- 
lar Standard had been absolutely 
stable for more years than he knew 
about. What would happen if it 
suddenly became unstable? A fluc- 
tuation of even a fraction of a cent 
would cause widespread panic; it 
would jolt the Public's faith in its 
infallible economic system. And the 
panic would cause further devi- 
ation in the Dollar's purchasing 
power, and — more panic. 

He wiped his brow. If the situ- 
ation in the Textile Industry was as 
critical as Edwin said it was, then 
Edwin and his superiors weren't 
going to be at all happy when 
Charles told them about the suit 
— and Charles was going to be 
the fall guy. 

But of course he had to get back 
and tell them. Because Edwin was 
all set to start production on the 
all-weather suit immediately, and 
if he actually went through with 
that and got a few million of them 
onto consumer's backs, the result 
would be not panic, but disaster. 

98 



And Charles' present problem 
was how to get home without being 
arrested. 



IT WAS then that one individual 
got an extremely tough break, 
and Charles got his first lucky one. 

A turbocar came barreling down 
the highway and, without warning 
struck an embankment. The driver 
was thrown fifty feet from the 
wreckage. 

Under different circumstances, 
he would never have considered 
doing what he did then. The pen- 
alty for wearing another person's 
name tag was severe. But Charles 
was under an extreme emotional 
strain; and without even thinking, 
he bent over the limp grey form of 
the other marlon and removed his 
tag. 

He straightened, then, clutching 
the plastic band and looking around 
at the smoking wreck. Already, he 
could hear a siren somewhere in 
the night. 

He slipped the name tag over his 
head and struck out through the 
bushes toward the city. 

His plan was simple; he had 
another name tag in his apartment 
for emergency purposes, and if 
Ingrid was in bed he'd have no 
trouble getting it, destroying the 
one he was wearing now, and 
putting on his other suit. 

Briefly, he wondered what the 
police would think of finding a 
body near a smashed car with no 
name tag. They'd probably decide 
it was the same person that had 
caused the disturbance at the night 
club earlier in the evening. 

STEPHEN BARTHOLOMEW 



Charles realized that the letter- 
ing on the car had indicated it was 
a public, coin-operated vehicle, so 
the authorities would have no 
means of identifying the body. 

After awhile it occurred to him 
that if he should go into hiding 
someplace, the body might easily 
be identified as his own, and he 
wouldn't have to worry about what 
Edwin and the other bosses would 
do to him. It probably wouldn't be 
noticed that the torn and blood- 
spattered clothes on the corpse were 
not thermostatic. But he shook his 
head resolutely. Even if he were 
crazy enough to try it, the body 
would be reported missing by some- 
body or other, so that would never 
do. 

Eventually, Charles reached a 
main thoroughfare in the city and 
hailed a cab. He climbed in the 
back, told the driver briefly to takfe 
him home, and then slumped down 
in the seat and brooded. 

He stared out the window, watch- 
ing the buildings go by, and the 
emotional reaction of the evening 
began to set in. Morbidly, Charles 
wondered what they'd do to him if 
he kept his mouth shut and let the 
Industry put the suit into produce 
tion, and waited for the millions of 
ID tags to begin to drop off. 

The prospect was so frightening 
that his apprehension over what 
would happen if it was discovered 
he was wearing somebody else's 
tag almost disappeared. 

Finally, the cab rolled to a 
stop. Charles got out and dropped 
some coins into the hand protrud- 
ing from the front seat, and, head 
low, he turned and entered the 

THE STANDARDIZED MAN 



apartment house. 

He trudged dismally up the 
stairs, thinking about his wife. He 
wondered what would happen if 
she were awake and waiting for 
him. If she saw that he had on 
somebody else's name tag. 

The door was unlocked. 

And the light was on. 

He wondered if he could duck 
into the bedroom without being 
seen, and then someone leaped at 
him and he knew it was too late. 

"Oh, James dear!" she cried, 
throwing her arms around Charles' 
neck. "When you walked out of 
here, I thought you'd never come 
back to me!" 

Charles looked at the marilyn's 
name tag with slow horror and 
realized that in his preoccupation, 
out of sheer force of habit, he had 
simply said to the cab driver, "Take 
me home," and the driver had 
looked at the address on his tag and 
complied. The apartment building 
so much resembled Charles' own 
that he hadn't known the difTer- 
ence, and he hadn't bothered to 
look at the number on the door. 

When Charles walked in, this 
Marilyn, Stasia her name was, had 
looked at his name tag and thought 
he was her James. She didn't have 
the slightest idea of who he really 
was. 

Then Charles closed his eyes, 
swallowed, and knew something 
else. 

It really didn't make the least 
bit of difference who he was. And 
of course, the solution to all his 
troubles was obvious. 

With a sigh, Charles leaned over 
Stasia and kissed her. END 

m 



Life is pretty strange when a 
god who is good and benevo- 
lent must prove that he has 



Feet of Clay 



BY PHILLIP HOSKINS 



THE PROBLEM," said Cassidy, 
"would seem to be simple." 
He thumped his outsized knuckles 
against the desk. "Almost too 
simple." 

"Why?" The other was a wearer 
of the black and silver uniform of 
Extrasol Traders; a short man, 
made shorter by the beer-barrel 
shape of his body and the extreme 
width of his shoulders. His head 
was capped with close-cropped 
gray curls. 




Illustrated by Paul Orban 



100 



"Why?" he repeated. "I've been 
studying it ever since it first 
cropped up, and I must admit that 
it's been beyond me." 

"I must confess, Dillon," said 
Cassidy, "I wonder how you ever 
rose to the managerial ranks of 
Extrasol. I find it hard to imagine 
a personnel man stupid enough to 
put you in charge of even a back- 
water planet like this Kash. Surely 
somebody in the home ofRce must 
know how dumb you are?" 

"My dumbness is not the sub- 
ject of this conversation," said Dil- 
lon, grimly. "I didn't like the idea 
of calling in a trouble-shooter. I 
liked it even less when I found out 
it was to be you." 

Cassidy grinned. "You mean 
my wonderful personality hasn't 
made an impression on you? I'm 
cut to the quick." 

"I put up with you for only one 
reason. You know aliens, far bet- 
ter than I could ever hope to. 
You're about the best in the field." 

"Only about? Really, Dillon, if 
you knew of someone better than 
me, why didn't you get them?" 

"All right!" He shouted the 
words. "You're the best! But you 
still haven't explained why the 
problem seems simple to you." He 
pulled out a cigarette, and bit 
down savagely on the end, only to 
spit out the loose tobacco amidst a 
sputter of curses. 

"The misfortunes of being feeble- 
minded," sighed Cassidy. "But 
for your sake, I'll take you by the 
hand, and try to lead you down 
the road of intelligence. But first, 
you better go over the situation 



once more. 



"We are on Kash," said Dillon, 
visibly controlling his patience. 
"It's the fourth world of a G-type 
sun of the periphery, unnamed in 
the catalogues. For that reason, 
we have assigned it the native 
name. Kash is their term for both 
the star and the planet, and 
roughly translates as 'home of the 
Gods'. 

"The planet was first contacted 
during the great galactic expansion 
of 2317, when the sole native lan- 
guage was taped. The planet is ap- 
proximately two-thirds the size of 
Earth, but its density is somewhat 
less, so the gravity is about half 
that of Earth. It is moonless, and 
so far from galactic center that 
scarcely a hundred stars are visible 
in the sky. Thus a trained observer 
can usually pick out the other five 
planets of the system with no 
trouble at all." He paused, and 
took a drink of water. 

"Six months ago it was contacted 
by Unit 317 of Extrasol Trad- 
ers . . ." 

"Namely you," said Cassidy. 

"Me. A month was spent map- 
ping the planet and searching out 
native villages. I then returned to 
base and picked up supplies neces- 
sary for setting up an outpost. Two 
months ago I returned. 

"And all Hell broke loose . . ." 

Night fell quickly, and with little 
relief on Kash, for the stars were 
few and far between, and shed 
little light. Dillon stepped out of 
the office that was doing double- 
duty as living quarters until sepa- 
rate quarters could be set up, and 
started for the nearby well. He 



101 



cursed as he realized his flashlight 
still lay on the desk, but the light 
pouring from the open door was 
enough to see by, and he decided 
against returning. 

As he walked, he breathed deep- 
ly of the tangy night air, and 
sighed with satisfaction. This 
world was infinitely more pleasur- 
able than the last he had posted, 
and he intended to enjoy his stay. 

He let his thoughts ramble as 
he walked and so almost ran down 
the waiting alien before he saw 
him. The native's huge eyes 
gleamed softly in the spill of light 
from the office, and the gray down 
that covered his body and head, 
except for the face, seemed soft 
and alive. 

"Tarsa, Bila," said the Earth- 
man, using the native greeting. 

"Tarsa, starman. May the Gods 
shine their eternal light on you." 

"And on you," Dillon said, 
observing the ritual. "But what 
brings you here at night?" 

"The night is beautiful, is it not, 
starman? It shines with a glory 
all its own. At times it would 
seem to outdo its brother, the day." 

"Indeed," he agreed. "Your 
world is one of the loveliest I have 
yet seen, and my travels have led 
me over as many stars as there 
are waves on the sea. But surely 
you did not come to talk merely 
of the night and its beauty." 

"Alas, no," sighed the native. 
"My task is a most unhappy one, 
for sorrow hangs heavy over the 
village. The women and children 
are weeping, and the men know 
not what to do in the face of 
calamity. It seems as though the 

102 



Gods themselves have turned 
against my people." He wiped his 
eyes with the back of his hand, 

"What would you with me, 
Bila?" asked the Earthman. "Surely 
I cannot be of any assistance?" 

"As a man from the sky, surely 
you have met the Gods in open 
battle before!" cried the alien. 
"And just as surely you must have 
defeated them, else you would not 
be here this night." 

"I am flattered, Bila. It is true 
that the Gods of the universe and 
I are not total strangers. Exactly 
what is wrong?" 

"It is Toll, the son of Kylano. 
He has fallen from a cliff, and the 
bones of his arm are broken and 
need curing." 

"But isn't that a job for the 
priest?" 

"Aye. But our priest has been 
on a pilgrimage these past ten 
days, and is to be gone another 
thirty or more. There is no one 
left with the necessary knowledge. 
You will come?" 

"I'll come, Bila. But first I must 
get a bag from the office. With it I 
may be able to help the boy." 

"Ah, you too have an herb basket 
like the priest's? Truly you are a 
friend of the Gods." 

"Not quite like the priest's," 
said Dillon, smiling. "But it serves 
much the same purpose." He hur- 
ried up the path and into the shack, 
emerging a moment later with the 
first-aid bag that was standard 
equipment for all men isolated 
from the services of a doctor. 

"That's where you made your 
first mistake," said Cassidy. "Reg- 

PHILLIP HOSKINS 



ulation 1287-63C, paragraph 119 
states 'no man shall give medical 
aid to alien races unless a team of 
certified specialists has checked out 
all such medicines with respect to 
such race and certified them safe. 
Penalty for breaking rule: Re- 
vocation of any licenses; restriction 
to home world for three years ; and/ 
or five thousand dollars fine.' You 
really did things up right. You 
should have left that bag in the 
safe where it belonged." 

"Well, I didn't," said Dillon. 
"And it's too late now to talk of 
what I should have done. At any 
rate . . ." 

"Where is the boy, Bila?" asked 
Dillon as he came up to the alien 
again. 

"At my village, starman. Come." 
He slipped down the path and was 
soon swallowed by the darkness. 
The Earthman hurried after, 
afraid of being lost in the almost 
inpenetrable night. 

He had forgotten the flashlight 
again, and he cursed as he stumbled 
over an unseen obstruction. 

"Bila!" he called. 

"Yes, starman?" The alien ap- 
peared as if from nowhere. 

"I'm afraid that I'm not as 
gifted as you when it comes to 
traveling at night without light. 
You had better let me hold onto 
your shoulder." 

"Of course, starman, I am most 
sorry for causing you trouble." 

"It's my own fault. I should 
have remembered the light. Let's 
get going again." He placed his 
hand on the alien's shoulder, and 
they started off again. . • 

FEET OF CLAY 



Despite his guide, he twice 
stumbled over obstructions, and 
would have fallen but for his grip 
on the other's shoulder. Bila waited 
while he steadied himself, and then 
started off again, keeping up a fast 
pace. 

The village lay three miles from 
the post, and during the day, Dillon 
considered it nothing more than 
a brisk walk. But the blindness 
that came with the dark wiped out 
all realization of time and space, 
and he soon began to think that 
they must have passed it by, when 
the alien spoke. 

"We are here, starman." 

They rounded a bend, and a 
cluster of huts came into view, 
lit by the dim light of a few scat, 
tered lamps. The alien threaded 
his way through 'the narrow lanes 
between the huts, and stopped out- 
side one of the largest in the group. 
He held the hangings aside, and 
Dillon stooped to enter. 

The hut was already crowded 
with natives. The smoke from half 
a dozen of the sputtering lamps 
hung like a shroud over the in- 
terior, and the Earthman's eyes 
were soon smarting. He wondered 
how the natives, with their much 
larger eyes, could stand it. 

The injured boy lay on a pallet 
in the center of the hut. An animal 
skin had been thrown over him, 
with the broken arm exposed. Dil- 
lon knelt by him, and felt it over 
carefully. 

"A clean break, thank God," he 
said, more to himself than his 
audience. 

The boy whimpered, and he 
reached for the bag, and rum- 

103 



maged around. Finally he pulled 
out an already prepared hypo, 
loaded with a sedative. He swabbed 
the boy's good arm, and pressed 
the needle home. 

The natives moved forward 
when they saw the needle, and 
some of them began to mutter. 
But the boy quickly dropped off 
into an untroubled sleep, and they 
settled down. 

The Earthman took hold of the 
broken arm, and marvelled at the 
frailty of it. The bones had to hold 
a lighter weight than those of 
Earthmen, and thus were cor- 
respondingly weaker. He felt that 
he could snap one of them with 
his hands. 

He straightened the arm out, as 
gently as he could, and then pulled. 
The broken ends slid together with 
a satisfying pop, and he quickly 
bound them with a splint from his 
bag. He wrapped the bandage 
tight, and tied it. Then he arose, 
picking up his bag. 

"He should be alright now," he 
said. "I'll stop by in the morning, 
when he's awake, and give him 
a going-over." 

"His arm," said Bila. "It is . . . 
fixed?" 

"Yes. He's young, and he should 
heal fast. Three weeks from now 
he'll be out with the other children, 
playing games and just as active as 
ever." 

"We thank you, starman," said 
Bila. "We have not the words to 
say just how happy we are that 
you have helped us." 

"It's nothing," said Dillon, em- 
barrassed by the show of gratitude. 
"All Earthmen would do the same." 

104 



"Ah, your magic must be even 
greater than that of the priests. It 
is most unfortunate that the village 
priest was away. But the Gods have 
smiled on us, by sending you in- 
stead " 

"He'll be back soon, I hope?" 
said Dillon. "The priest, I mean." 

"Alas, not for at least thirty 
days, and perhaps more. He knew 
not where his pilgrimage would 
lead him." 

"But if you have more troubles 
like this?" 

"Our misfortunes," said Bila, his 
face downcast. "If the Gods see 
fit to abandon us to the miseries of 
the world, what can mere men say? 
If some must die, than they shall 
sui'ely die." 

"No!" He regretted the word 
the moment it was out, but it was 
too late to recall it. The milk was 
spilt, and crying would be foolish 
at this point. "No. If you have 
troubles, come to me. I will do 
what I can, although I am not 
sure that it will be much." 

"Ten million thanks, starman!" 
His eyes glistened with joy. "Our 
people shall be eternally grateful." 

"You'd better save your thanks, 
until you're sure that I can help 
you. But right now, I'd appreciate 
a guide back to the post, and a 
lamp, so I don't fall anymore." 

"Of course. It shall be done im- 
mediately." He motioned for one 
of the men in the hut, who came 
with a lamp. Bila held the hangings 
aside, and the two passed outside 
into the blackness again. 

The trip back to the trader's 
shack passed without mishap and 
Dillon went to sleep quite pleased. 

PHILLIP HOSKINS 



TEN DAYS PASSED. They 
were days of intensified effort 
for Dillon, as he went about the 
task of setting up the rest of the 
post. The warehouse came first, 
and the living quarters. The office 
that had been serving double-duty 
reverted to its primary function. 

Occasionally a few natives would 
drop around to gaze at the work- 
in-progress, but they would soon 
grow bored, and drift away to 
other amusements. He had twice 
been back to the village to look at 
the boy, but so far nothing else had 
come up to require his meagre 
medical knowledge. He was begin- 
ning to think that he might last out 
until the priest returned. He had 
been rereading the regulations , 
covering contact, and the penalties 
were much too harsh for his liking. 
He began to worry about hiding 
traces of his one experiment. 

The noonday sun was on the 
wane when he finished wrestling 
the last of a group of bins into 
the warehouse. He pulled out his 
kerchief, and wiped the accumu- 
lated sweat from his eyes. The sum- 
mer season was full on the land, 
and the heat was as bad as any 
he had seen on Earth. 

He brought his lunch out to 
the office porch, and sank down 
in the rocker that he had brought 
from his last post. There was a 
slight breeze blowing diagonally 
across the clearing in front of the 
building, and he shifted around 
to receive its full benefit. 

The first bite was scarcely in his 
mouth when Bila came into sight 
around the bend of the path. He 
cursed silently, and put down his 

FEET OF CLAY 



sandwich. He stood up to welcome 
the alien. 

"Tarsa, Bila," he said. "What 
brings you here today?" 

"Sadness again wearies our 
people, and we know not what to 
do. The Gods are indeed angered 
with us, and our priest is still away." 

"Just what is it this time?" 

"It is Kylano. He is at death's 
door, and the messengers of the 
Gods can be heard waiting to take 
him beyond." Two tears broke 
loose and rolled down his leathery 
gray cheeks. 

"The boy's father?" said Dillon. 
The alien nodded. 

"But what is wrong with him?" 

"Alas, we do not know. He was 
swimming in the lake, when a de- 
mon possessed one of the fishes, and 
bit him on the leg. When he came 
out of the water, a fever lay heavi- 
ly over him, and he has become un- 
conscious." 

"And you want me to save him." 
It was a statement, rather than a 
question, and the native recognized 
it as such. 

"If it be within your power, 
starman. If you do not come, he 
must surely die." 

"All right, Bila. I'll do whatever 
I can." He ducked inside the office, 
and came out again with his bag. 
They set oiT down the path. 

"Your second major mistake," 
said Cassidy. "You were lucky 
with the boy, but you should have 
come to your senses enough to leave 
the bag behind on the second call. 
You were just stepping out into 
deeper water." 

"But the man was sick, and I 

105 



didn't know what else to do but 
use the medicines. I couldn't let 
him die!" 

"Why not?" 

"Why not? I've got feelings and 
a conscience. That's why! I couldn't 
just stand by and do nothing. 
Especially when the sedative 
worked on the boy!" 

"It would have been far better 
to let one man die than to have the 
aliens come to regard you as higher 
than their own priests." 

"It's easy enough for you to say 
what I should have done here, but 
I think your own actions would 
have been far different if you had 
been in my place." 

"I doubt it. I'd never have been 
made trouble-shooter, if I didn't 
have the brains to avoid a mess 
like that. I still think you're just 
plain stupid." 

"My thoughts of you are better 
left unsaid. At any rate, when we 
got to the village ..." 

It was the same hut, and a 
crowd that may or may not have 
been present the earlier night. The 
numbers were the same. The only 
change was the lack of the over- 
hanging pall of smoke from the 
lamps. 

The man occupied the same pal- 
let as the boy, and the crowd made 
way for Dillon as he moved to his 
side. It was readily apparent that 
he was very ill, and Dillon uttered 
a silent prayer that he had some- 
thing in the kit to help him. 

The leg wound was nasty and 
crusted over. He swabbed it clean, 
blanching when he saw its depth. 
Steadying himself, he bound it 

106 



tightly, and sat back on his heels 
to ponder his next move. 

The bandage would prevent any 
further infection, but the Earth- 
man was afraid the damage had 
already been done. The fever lay 
heavily on the native, and he 
tossed and turned in his coma. The 
drugs in the bag were all intended 
for use by Terrans only, and an 
attempt to aid the slight alien 
might only result in death. Whereas 
if he were left alone to ride out 
the fever, he just might come 
through all right. 

Kylano let out a muted sob, and 
struck out wildly, nearly hitting 
Dillon in the face. He cursed, and 
turned to his bag, selecting the 
most catholic antibiotic it con- 
tained. He looked up at the watch- 
ing crowd, but they just stared 
back impassively. He cursed again, 
and swabbed a spot on the native's 
arm, and thrust home the needle. 

He threw the empty hypo back 
in the bag, and shut it savagely. 
Then he stood up, and looked 
around for Bila. 

"A drink of water, please," he 
said, catching the other's eye. 

"Certainly, starman," he replied, 
handing over a gourd. 

Dillon drank deeply, then wiped 
his mouth. He handed back the 
gourd and picked up his bag. As 
he pushed his way through the 
crowd, Bila followed. 

"Kylano will be well now?" said 
the alien. 

"I don't know. I just don't know. 
I hope so." 

"Is there anything more you can 
do?" 

"Perhaps. If I knew just what he 

PHILLIP HOSKINS 



was sick with, and I had the right 
drugs to treat it, I could do a lot. 
As it is . . ." He left the sentence 
hanging. 

"If the Gods will it, he will live." 

"Pray that they will it. In the 
meantime, you might bathe his 
forehead every now and then. It'll 
help to make him more comfort- 
able." 

"In any event, we thank you, 
starman. With our priest gone . . ." 

"Why did your priest leave on 
such a long journey, Bila? I should 
think he would be more concerned 
with the care of his flock." 

"The ways of the priesthood are 
beyond the comprehension of ordi- 
nary men. When the Gods speak 
to them, they obey, no matter how 
onerous the orders may be. If men 
must suffer during their absence, 
it is unfortunate. But it must be." 

"Then I'd think that your priests 
would see to it that someone in the 
village would know what to do in 
case of emergency." 

"Oh, no!" He seemed horrified 
at the thought. "Knowledge is for 
the Gods to give to the chosen 
ones. Common men would not be 
worthy of it, for it is certain that 
they do not have the intelligsnce 
to deal with it properly. Only the 
priests are wise enough to be so 
honored. Priests and men from 
the stars," he added, as an after- 
thought. 

"Well, in any event, I hope you 
don't need me any more . . ." 

"But they did need you," said 
Cassidy. 

"Unfortunately, yes. Four more 
times in the twenty days before the 

FEET OF CLAY 



return of the priest." 

"What were the troubles?" 

"Once, it was to aid in child- 
birth — my first adventure as a mid- 
wife," he said, remembering the 
event and his shame at his igno- 
rance in the matter. He had had 
to take directions from the woman. 
"Once, a hunter had fallen in an 
animal trap, and broken both his 
legs," he continued. "And twice, it 
was for sickness." 

"The same one as this Kylano?" 

"I don't know. I couldn't hope 
to diagnose it, so I just shot them 
full of antibiotics, and prayed for 
a miracle." 

"You should have prayed for 
brains instead. But all of your sick 
ones recovered?" 

"Yes. I couldn't seem to do any- 
thing wrong, and it wasn't long be- 
fore the natives were beginning 
to look on me as the personal rep- 
resentative of their Gods. It was 
embarrassing, the way they fawned 
over me." 

"Tell me," said Cassidy. "You 
said you read the regs over. Why 
in the name of all that's holy 
didn't you have the sense to follow 
them?" 

"I couldn't stand by and watch 
them die! I had to help them, Cas- 
sidy. Damn it, I had to!" 

"Yeah, sure. But go on." 

"Well, to shorten matters, the 
local priest finally got back from 
his pilgrimage, and took up his 
old duties. All went well for about 
a week, and then another alien be- 
came ill. The priest heard about 
it, naturally, and went to his aid. 
But it seems my percentage of re- 
coveries was better than his at 

J 07 



ils very best. They wouldn't let 
him even near the sick one. Instead, 
they sent for me." 

"You went?" 

"Of course. I didn't know the 
priest was back, and what else 
could I do?" 

"I shudder to think. What hap- 
pened?" 

"The native got well, and the 
tribe practically pitched the priest 
out on his ear. He went running 
to his superiors, and they called 
a council of war. They banned 
the natives from the post, and 
threatened to cut off any who 
were seen with me from all priestly 
privileges. 

"The tribe made an almighty 
stink. They called their own coim- 
cil, and there was practically civil 
war. That's when I called you. Or, 
rather, the nearest trouble-shooter." 

"Ah, me. Why is it that I, Cas- 
sius Cassidy, get saddled with all 
of the real stinkers in the galaxy? 
I don't mind shooting other 
people's troubles for them, but I 
do resent the fact that the messiest 
ones get dumped in my lap. Some- 
times I feel like resigning." 

"Cassidy, one of these days . . ." 

"Oh, simmer down. I said there 
was a simple solution to your prob- 
lem, and I knew what I was 
talking about. The natives have 
been so taken in by your ridiculous- 
ly lucky flukes that they think 
vou're the next thing to a Gk)d. 
Right?" 

"Right." Each looked as though 
the other were something unmen- 
tionable, left over from the last 
cleaning of the cesspool. 

103 



"So we just . . ." He leaned for- 
ward and outlined his plan. 



FIVE DAYS PASSED, peace- 
ably. The natives gave the post 
a wide margin; not even Bila 
showed his face. Dillon began to 
think that maybe there was a 
chance things would go back to 
normal by themselves; and that 
Cassidy's plan would not be neces- 
sary. 

The first four days were merely 
a continuation of the heat. The two 
Earthmen sat around the office, 
speaking only when it was absolute- 
ly unavoidable, and then only in 
snarls. Dillon sent out a rush re- 
quest for air conditioning equip- 
ment, omitted, by some mistake, 
from the supplies. 

The fifth day was as sunny as 
ever, but a stiff west wind sprang 
up, and the temperature was bear- 
able. Cassidy smiled for the first 
time in days, and Dillon tried to 
be pleasant to him. 

The sixth day broke with an un- 
ceasing torrent of rain, and the 
men returned to their surly grum- 
bling. 

"i hope the post isn't washed 
away," said Cassidy. "This stonn 
begins to assume the aspects of 
the Biblical flood." 

"We're safe enough," said Dil- 
lon. "Only . . ." 

"Only what?" 

"Nothing. Just a hunch." 

"Good or bad?" 

"Bad. All bad. I've got a feeling 
we're due for a visit." 

As if on cue, a knock came on 
the office door. Dillon opened it, 

PHILLIP HOSKINS 



and stood aside for the throughly 
bedraggled alien waiting outside. 
Bila was a sorry caricature of him- 
self, with his down plastered to his 
body. Water dripped from him in 
a steady stream. 

"Tarsa, starman," he said. 

"Tarsa, Bila," replied Dillon. 
"I've been expecting you." 

"Oh? Do you then have the 
powers of foreseeing the future, 
too?" 

"No," he said, laughing. "It's 
just that it's been several days 
since you were last here. You were 
overdue for a visit." 

Cassidy cleared his throat, and 
Dillon turned to him. 

"This is Cassidy, Bila," he said. 
"He is my brother from the stars, 
and has come to visit me for a 
short while." 

"Tarsa, Cassidy," the native said, 
gravely. 

"Tarsa, Bila. I have been hoping 
to meet a member of your people." 

"Oh? Has the fame of Kash 
spread far through the universe 
then?" 

"Indeed, all of the civilized 
worlds talk of Kash and its gentle 
folk. It is a eommon ambition to 
be able to come here and see you 
in person. It is hoped that soon 
such travel will be most frequent, 
to the reward of both of our 
peoples." 

"Indeed," said Bila. "I thank 
you in the name of my people. 
Will you yourself be here long?" 

"Unfortunately, no. But when I 
go I will take fond memories as 
souvenirs." 

"What is so important that it 
brought you out in this storm, 

FEET OF CLAY 



Bila?" asked Dillon, breaking into 
the conversation. "Your troubles 
must be pressing." 

"Indeed, they are. The Gods 
frown heavily on our village this 
day, and I have come once more 
to seek your intercession." 

"What is the matter?" asked 
Cassidy. 

"Alas, the trouble is in my own 
household. My wife lies at the door 
to death, and I fear she is fast 
slipping beyond." 

"Haven't you had the priest in?" 
asked Dillon. 

"Against your great and won- 
drous magic, Dillon, what is the 
priest? He is like a lost little boy, 
unable to tell North from East, 
and helpless in the face of death. 
Only you have the power to bring 
her back to the world of the living, 
as you did with Kylano and the 
others." 

"I thank you for your trust,"" 
said Dillon. "I only hope it is not 
misplaced." 

"You will come?" 

"Of course. As soon as I dress 
for the storm, and get my bag." He 
turned to do so, then was struck by 
an afterthought. "By the way, do 
you mind if Cassidy comes with 
us? He would appreciate the chance 
to see your village." 

"It will be an honor." 

"Good. Get into your togs, Cass." 

They were soon ready. Dillon 
grabbed up his bag, and he fol- 
lowed the native out into the 
storm. The rain blew straight to- 
ward them, and they bent forward, 
into the wind. The trip to the vil- 
lage was a fight all the way. 

The village itself had become 

109 



isolated; an island in the midst of 
a shallow lake. They waded across, 
to the hut that was Bila's. He held 
the hangings aside, and the Earth- 
men stepped into the stink of the 
alien crowd. 

The omnipresent lamps were lit, 
and the smoke hung heavy. Both of 
the Earthmen were soon wishing 
they had protection for their smart- 
ing eyes. 

The natives stopjjed their keen- 
ing, and made room for the two 
men. They both moved forward, 
and bent over the woman. Dillon 
could see that she was as sick as 
the others, but whether or not it 
was the same disease, he could 
not say. For the eighth such time, 
he wished he had taken medical 
training as a youth, in deference 
to his family's wishes. 

"It's hot in here," said Cassidy. 
Sweat beaded out on his forehead, 
and he wiped it away with a shak- 
ing hand. 

"Small wonder," said Dillon, 
"with all these people here. They 
must up the temperature by twenty 
degrees." He opened his bag, and 
dug out a swab. After cleaning a 
spot on her arm, he dug out a 
needle, and filled it from an 
ampoule. 

"Dillon!" 

He whirled around, "Cass! 
What's the matter?" 

"I . . . don't know. Woozy. I 
feel woozy." He staggered, and fell 
forward, unconscious. 

"Cass!" He bent over the man, 
and turned him over. Cassidy's face 
was white, and the sweat rolled 
off in rivulets. Dillon felt for a 
pulse, and then pulled out a stetho- 

110 



scope. Baring the other's chest, he 
listened for a beat. 

"What is it, Dillon?" asked Bila. 
"What is wrong?" 

"I don't know. He's sick." He 
looked worried. 

"Sick?" The natives stared at 
each other, unbelieving. 

"Yes, sick! Earthmen get sick 
too, you know!" He bared Cassidy's 
arm, and swabbed it clean. Then 
he pressed home the needle he had 
prepared for the woman. 

"He will get well?" asked Bila. 

"I don't know." Dillon felt for 
a pulse again. Disbelief washed 
over his face, and he sank back on 
his heels. 

"What is it?" 

"He's dead." 

"Dead?" Amazement took hold 
of them. 

"Dead." The Earthman stood 
up, shaking his head. "But your 
wife, Bila. I must attend to her." 

"No." The native stepped be- 
tween the man and woman, and 
held out his arms. 

"No? Why not?" 

"The Gods have frowned on you, 
starman. It is obvious that they are 
dissatisfied with you, for they took 
your brother." 

"But just because Cassidy died 
doesn't mean your wife will." He 
stared at the lesser being, dum- 
founded. "But she might, if not 
treated." 

"We shall get the priest. We can- 
not run the risk of offending the 
Gods by permitting you to touch 
her." 

The Earthman stared from face 
to face, but the same message was 
written on all. Hopelessness took 

PHILLIP HOSKINS 



the place of question, and he 
turned, and stumbled from the 
hut, and into the storm. 

"Take the man to the post," said 
Bila. Several of the men hurried 
to do his bidding. They carried 
Cassidy out into the night, with- 
out looking back. 

"Simple," said Cassidy. "Just 
like I said." He was hunched over 
his coffee, his ham-like hands soak- 
ing up the warmth from the cup. 

"Simple," said Dillon. "I don't 
get it. Just why did they stop me 
from treating the woman?" 

"We come from the stars, which 
the natives associate with the home 
of the Gods. We don't look quite 
like their legends say Gods should, 
but they figured we must be close 
to them, so they credited us with 
omnipotent powers. The priests 
claimed the cures they affected were 
done with the grace of the al- 
mighty, and the natives figured 
your cures came from the same 
source." 

"I can't figure why they wouldn't 
even let me touch her," said Dillon. 
"It doesn't make sense." 

"Actually, if you had given her 



the shot without me on the scene, 
and she had died, they probably 
would have accepted it as the will 
of the Gods. The priests fail once 
in awhile, and they just claim 
that the Gods have wanted that 
particular person to die. But when 
you were unable to save me, an- 
other man from the stars, and 
therefore presumably a close ac- 
quaintance of the Almighty, they 
could come to only one conclu- 
sion: The Gods withdrew their 
blessings from you. After that they 
wouldn't have let you touch a sick 
pig — if they have pigs here." He 
drained his cup. 

A roar sounded down from the 
sky, building up into a wail that 
scraped the spines of the hearers. 
It rose to a crescendo, and then 
came a jarring shock that shud- 
dered the whole building. 

"My chauffeur," said Cassidy. 
"Hot-rodding, as usual." He rose, 
and picked up his baggage. 

"You know, Dillon," he said, 
"You're a jerk. I'll tell my grand- 
children about you. You're a per- 
fect example of what not to do." 
He shook his head. "A horrible 
example." END 




FEET OF CLAY 



rii 



OUT FROM THE SUN 

(Continued from page 81) 

derstand the strange doom that 
had befallen it? There are a thou- 
sand such questions that may never 
be answered. It is hard to see how 
a creature born in the fires of the 
Sun itself could know anything of 
the external universe, or could 
even sense the existence of some- 
thing as unutterably cold as rigid 
non-gaseous matter. The living 
island that was falling upon us 
from space could never have con- 
ceived, however intelligent it 
might be, of the world it was so 
swiftly approaching. 

Now it filled our sky — and per- 
haps, in those last few seconds, it 
knew that something strange was 
ahead of it. It may have sensed the 
far-flung magnetic field of Mercu- 
ry, or felt the tug of our little 
world's gravitational pull. For it 
had begun to change ; the luminous 
lines that must have been what 
passed for its nervous system were 
clumping together in new patterns, 
and I would have given much to 
know their meaning. It may be that 
I was looking into the brain of a 
mindless beast in its last convulsion 
of fear — or of a god-like being mak- 
ing its peace with the universe. 

Then the radar screen was emp- 
ty, wiped clean during a single 
scan of the beam. The creature 
had fallen below our horizon, and 
was hidden from us now by the 
curve of the planet. Far out in the 
burning Dayside of Mercury, in 
the inferno where only a dozen men 
have ever ventured and fewer still 
come back alive, it smashed silent- 



ly and invisibly against the seas 
of molten metal, the hiUs of slow- 
ly moving lava. The mere impact 
could have meant nothing to such 
an entity; what it could not endure 
was its first contact with the incon- 
ceivable cold of solid matter. 

Yes, cold. It had descended upon 
the hottest spot in the Solar System, 
where the temperature never falls 
below seven hundred degrees 
Fahrenheit and sometimes ap- 
proaches a thousand. And that was 
far, far colder to it than the Ant- 
arctic winter would be to a naked 
man. 

We did not see it die, out there 
in the freezing fire; it was beyond 
the reach of our instruments now, 
and none of them recorded its end. 
Yet every one of us knew when 
that moment came, and that is 
why we are not interested when 
those who have seen only the films 
and tapes tell us that we were 
watching some purely natural 
phenomenon. 

How can one explain what we 
felt, in that last moment when half 
our little world was enmeshed in 
the dissolving tendrils of that huge 
but immaterial brain? I can only 
say that it was a soundless cry 
of anguish, a death-pang that 
seeped into our minds without pass- 
ing through the gateways of the 
senses. Not one of us doubted 
then, or has ever doubted since, 
that he had witnessed the passing 
of a giant. 

We may have been both the 
first and the last of all men to 
see so mighty a fall. Whatever they 
may be, in their unimaginable 
world within the Sun, our paths and 



112 



theirs may never cross again. It is 
hard to see how we can ever make 
contact with them, even if their 
intelligence matches ours. 

And does it? It may be well for 
us if we never know the answer. 
Perhaps they have been living there 
inside the Sun since the Universe 
was born, and have climbed to 
peaks of wisdom which we shall 
never scale. The future may be 
theirs, not ours; already they may 
be talking across the light-years 
to their cousins in other stars. 

One day they may discover us, 
by whatever strange senses they 
possess, as we circle round their 



mighty, ancient home, proud of 
our knowledge and thinking our- 
selves lords of creation. They may 
not like what they find, for to 
them we should be no more than 
maggots, crawling upon worlds too 
cold to cleanse themselves from the 
corruption of organic life. 

And then, if they have the 
power, they will do what they 
consider necessary. The Sun will 
put forth its strength and lick the 
faces of its children; and thereafter 
the planets will go their way once 
more, as they were in the beginning, 
clean, and bright . . . and sterile. 

END 



THE BARBARIANS 

(Continued from page 76) 

Myka, sat on his porch. One of 
the tribesmen was wrapping Geof- 
frey's and Dugald's forearms to- 
gether. Geoffrey watched him with 
complete detachment. He stole a 
glance over toward Weatherby's 
porch, and it seemed to him that 
Myka was tense and anxious. He 
couldn't be sure . . . 

The fingers of his right hand 
gripped the haft of The Bar- 
barian's knife. He held it with his 
thumb along the blade, knowing 
that if he drew his arm up, to stab 
downward, or back, to slash, 
Dugald would have a perfect open- 
ing. It was his thought, remem- 
bering that razor-keen blade, that 
he ought to be able to do plenty 
of damage with a simple under- 
hand twist of his arm. He did not 
look down to see how Dugald was 



holding the knife he'd been given. 
That would have been unfair. 

The crowd of watching tribes- 
men was completely silent. This was 
a serious business with them, Geof- 
frey reflected. 

The tribesman tying their wrists 
had finished the job. He stepped 
back. "Anytime after I say 'Go,' 
you boys set to it. Anything goes 
and dead man loses. If you don't 
fight, we kill you both." 

For the first time since their 
capture, Geoffrey looked squarely 
into Dugald's slit eyes. "I'm sorry 
we have to do this to each other in 
this way, Dugald," he said. 

"Go!" the tribesman shouted, 
and jumped back. 

Dugald spat at Geoffrey's face. 
Geoffrey twitched his head invol- 
untarily, realized what he done, 
and threw himself off his feet, pul- 
ling Dugald with him and just 
escaping the downward arc of 



113 



Dugald's plunging knife. The 
momentum of Dugald's swing, 
combined with Geoffrey's weight, 
pulled him completely over Geof- 
frey's shoulder. The two of them 
jerked abruptly flat on the ground, 
their shoulders wrenched, sprawled 
out facing each other and tied to- 
gether like two cats on a string. 

The crowd shouted. 

Geoffrey had landed full on his 
ribs, and for a moment he saw 
nothing but a red mist. Then his 
eyes cleared and he was staring 
into Dugald's face. Dugald snarled 
at him, and pawed out with his 
knife, at the advantage now be- 
cause he could stab downward. 
Geoffrey rolled, and Dugald per- 
force rolled with him. The stab 
missed again, and Geoffrey, on his 
back, jabbed blindly over his head 
and reached nothing. Then they 
were on their stomachs again. 

Dugald was panting, his face 
running wet. The long black hair 
was full of dust, and his face was 
smeared. If ever Geoffrey had seen 
a man in an animal state, that was 
what Dugald resembled. Geoffrey 
thought wildly; Is this what a noble 
is? 

"I'll kill you!" Dugald bayed at 
him, and Geoffrey's hackles rose. 
This is not a man, he thought. 
This is nothing that deserves to 
live. 

Dugald's arm snapped back, 
knife poised, and drove downward 
again. Geoffrey suddenly coiled his 
back muscles and heaved on his 
left arm, yanking himself up against 
Dugald's chest. He snapped his 
hips sideward, and Dugald's knife 



missed him completely for the third 
and fatal time. The Barbarian's 
knife slipped upward into Dugald's 
rib cage, and suddenly Geoffrey 
was drenched with blood. Dugald's 
teeth bit into his neck, but the 
other man's jaws were already 
slackening. Geoffrey let himself 
slump, and hoped they would cut 
this carrion away from him as soon 
as possible. He heard the crowd 
yelping, and felt The Barbarian 
plucking the knife out of his hand. 
His arm was freed, and he rolled 
away. 

"By God, I knew you had the 
stuff," The Barbarian was boom- 
ing. "I knew they had to start 
breeding men out on the coast 
sooner or later. Here — give me your 
other wrist." The blade burned his 
skin twice each way— once for 
victory and once for special apti- 
tude — and then Myka pressed a 
clotfi to the wound. 

She was shaking her head. "I've 
never seen it done better. You're 
a natural born fighter, Lad. I've 
got one of my sisters all picked out 
for you." 

Geoffrey smiJed up at The Bar- 
barian, a little ruefully. "It seems 
you and I'll be going back to the 
coast together, next year." 

"Had it in mind all along. Lad," 
The Barbarian said. "If I can't lick 
'em, I'll be damned if I won't make 
'em join me." 

"It's an effective system," Geof- 
frey said. 

"That it is. Lad. That it is. And 
now, if you'll climb up to your 
feet, let's go get you some break- 
fast." END 



IT4 



FEELING OF POWER 

(Continued from page 11) 

with a man or two within, con- 
trolling flight by graphitics, would 
be lighter, more mobile, more in- 
telligent. It would give us a lead 
that might well mean the margin of 
victory. Besides which, gentlemen, 
the exigencies of war compel us to 
remember one thing. A man is 
much more dispensable than a com- 
puter. Manned missiles could be 
launched in numbers and under 
circumstances that no good general 
would care to undertake as far as 
computer-directed missiles are con- 
cerned — " 

He said much more but Techni- 
cian Aub did not wait. 

Technician Aub, in the privacy 
of his quarters, labored long over 
the note he was leaving behind. It 
read finally as follows : 

"When I began the study of what 
is now called graphitics, it was no 
more than a hobby. I saw no more 
in it than an interesting amusement, 
an exercise of mind. 

"When Project Number began, 
I thought that others were wiser 
than I : that graphitics might be put 
to practical use as a benefit to man- 



kind; to aid in the production of 
really practical mass-transference 
devices perhaps. But now I see it 
is to be used only for death. 

"I cannot face the responsibility 
involved in having invented gra- 
phitics." 

He then deliberately turned the 
focus of a protein-depolarizer on 
himself and fell instantly and pain- 
lessly dead. 

They stood over the grave of the 
little Technician while tribute was 
paid to the greatness of his dis- 
covery. 

Programmer Shuman bowed his 
head along with the rest of them, 
but remained unmoved. The tech- 
nician had done his share and was 
no longer needed, after all. He 
might have started graphitics, but 
now that it had started, it would 
carry on by itself overwhelmingly, 
triumphantly, until manned mis- 
siles were possible, along with who 
knew what else. 

Nine times seven, thought Shu- 
man with deep satisfaction, is sixty- 
three and I don't need a computer 
to tell me so. The computer is in 
my own head. 

And it was amazing the feeling 
of power that gave him. END 



WHAT IS YOUR SCIENCE I.Q.? 

ANSWERS: 1 — Solid with 12 plane faces. 2 — Sagittarius. 3 — It never 
varies. 4 — Tin. 5 — Temperature at which vapor pressure equals one 
atmosphere. 6 — Scientific study of Mars. 7 — Gypsum, fluorite, topaz. 
8 — Lever, wheel, pulley, inclined plane, wedge, screw. 9 — Joining similar 
molecules to make a larger one. 10 — Nobellium. 11 — Both lack true 
roots, stems, leaves. 12 — Nitric and hydrochloric acids. 13 — Wind 
velocity of 70 m.p.h. 14 — Temperature when substances change mag- 
netic behavior. 1 5 — Fission, budding, spores. 



115 




SCIENCE 



BRIEFS 



A new family of materials, made 
from glass, which are harder than 
steel, lighter than aluminum and 15 
times as strong as plate glass has 
been developed by the researchers 
at Corning Glass. Named Pyro- 
ceram, the new material is a major 
contribution and an advance in 
glass technology whose production 
is a revolutionary manufacturing 
process in which non-crystalline 
glass is turned into a hard non- 
porous crystalline material. It can 
be tailor-made with thermal expan- 
sions ranging from slightly negative 
to high enough to match those of 
heavy metals. It can have electrical 
insulating properties suf>erior to 
those of the best commercial dielec- 
tric ceramics. It can be opaque or 
transparent, the first polycrystalline 
material ever to exhibit this optical 
property. Certain types of the ma- 
terial keep their strength at tem- 
peratures as high as 1300 degrees 
Fahrenheit. It can be made into 
large or complex shapes by any of 
the known glass-forming techniques. 

Transportation engineers are learn- 
ing that all-aluminum subway cars 
may cost less to run and maintain 
than the steel cars now in use and 
the rush-hour contingent of the fu- 



ture will no doubt be jamming into 
the new type of subway. Cars with 
aluminum bodies and underframes 
are strong, light, and corrosion re- 
sistant due to a protective oxide on 
the surface of the metal. The new 
type of car would be about nine 
percent lighter than the 47-ton 
loaded steel ones and would cost 
about $500 less per year to run and 
maintain. Longer bearing, wheel 
and track life and either more pas- 
sengers carried at the same speeds, 
or a faster train schedule possible 
due to the light weight would ac- 
count for much lower maintenance 
and operation costs. 

The United States Army will soon 
replace bottles for blood transfu- 
sions with plastic bags that pump 
blood when placed under the shoul- 
der of a wounded man. The plastic 
bags offer the added advantage of 
being unbreakable, disposable and, 
when empty, taking up only one- 
sixth of the space now needed for 
storing bottles. Designed to be 
placed under the shoulder of the 
wounded man, the bags are able to 
force the blood at an even rate into 
the arm through use of the body 
weight. 

A greotiy improved micro-wave re- 
lay system capable of handling more 
than 10,000 telephone conversa- 
tions, or 12 television programs plus 
2,500 telephone conversations will 
be in use in about two years. The 
new system, called TH for short will 
take advantage of advances such as 
silicon rectifiers, transistors, and fer- 
rite switches that can switch rapidly 
and automatically from regular and 



116 



emergency equipment in less than a 
thousandth of a second. It will 
beam signals much as a searchlight 
beams visible light, with short-wave, 
high-frequency radio waves relay- 
ing the information from one line- 
of-sight link to another. 

A study on solid propellants and 
the effects of solid fuel motor re- 
quirements for the guided missile 
program has revealed that such 
fuels will propel most military 
rockets of the future. Interest in 
solid fuels is based on the fact that 
such compounds are safer, easier to 
store and require less handling. 
The solids also cost less and there 
will be a dollar saving in storage, 
transportation and training the 
crews to handle them. Some solid 
fuels already in use include some 
plastics, natural and synthetic rub- 
ber compounds, nitroglycerine and 
nitrocellulose compounds as well 
as solidified boron complexes. 

A tiny tube the size of a cigarette 
filter tip which shows how long a 
radio, TV picture tube or other 
electronic device has been operat- 
ing has been developed by the Ray- 
theon Company. Simple to install, 
cheaper than mechanical timers, 
self sealed, and impervious to sur- 
rounding conditions the device can 
be operated in any position and 
uses about the same amount of 
energy as that generated by a flea. 

The sun beating down on an in- 
fantryman will be the source of 
energy to power the world's small- 
est transmitter-receiver built into a 
soldier's helmet. Silicon wafer solar 



cells used in combination with a 
nickel-cadmium storage cell make 
up a package which weighs less 
than a pound, and can be used 
both in sunlight and when clouds 
and nightfall cut off solar energy. 

Automation is overtaking even the 
highly trained medical laboratory 
technician. Called the Autoana- 
lyser, the new machine can run 
through a blood analysis in almost 
less time than it takes to prick a 
finger. The machine, which was de- 
veloped by the Technicon Com- 
pany, can be loaded with a batch 
of 60 blood samples and test them 
for sugar, calcium and urea in 
about one hour. 

The magic carpet of fiction may 
actually be a reality someday soon. 
Astrophysicists foresee the carpet 
made of tiny closed cells filled with 
hydrogen or helium, the cell walls 
so light and strong that the carpet 
would be lighter than air. The pro- 
duction of strong, thin, single crys- 
tals has suggested the idea and 
lifting power could be managed by 
different degrees of elastic com- 
pression of the carpet's spongy 
metallic substance. 

A miniature dry-cell battery which 
is rechargeable and almost inde- 
structible has been developed by 
government researchers. Adaptable 
to the transistorized circuits of 
hearing aids, walkie-talkies and 
portable radios, the tiny 1.5 ounce 
battery has advantages of long life, 
constant voltage and durability 
which make it a really rugged 
mighty midget. 



117 




Didn't Mr. Smith defeat his own 
argument when he criticijied 
Gunn's Green Thumb? He said he 
wanted us to stop stuffing our heads 
with the irrelevancies of specializa- 
tion and use our learning as a 
guide to learning. What does he 
want us to be, a nation of philoso- 
phers? After all, most people who 
are specialists are not stuffing their 
heads with facts that are irrelevant 
to their own particular field. They 
are using their own special learn- 
ing to further more learning on the 
same subject and thereby learning 
more than was known about it 
before. 

I agree with Gunn that the spe- 
cialists are forgetting the larger 
field, that they should broaden 
their horizons to take in more than 
their own little field; that large 
strides in one dimension are not 
enough to compensate for no for- 
ward movement in any other. 



However, only through specializa- 
tion and attention to the details of 
a field of knowledge can that field 
make any strides toward learning 
more about itself. 

— E. K. DeYoung 
Seattle, Wash. 

Becoming a statistic is ordinarily 
laughingly to be shied away from, 
but in this case you're welcome to 
include me. I'm an avid reader 
of science fiction, but never thought 
much about why until you asked. 
I'm a technical manual writer, 
writing about such commonplace 
powerplants as those destined to 
lift some lucky pilot into outer 
space one fine day — liquid rocket 
engines. Thirty years ago I read my 
first s.f. stories with rocket ships as 
the theme. Today those dream 
ships are only a step away. Which 
brings up the point about my pres- 
ent outlook on the subject. 

Our favorite reading matter is 
one of the very few types of fiction 
left. Detective stories, love stories, 
and most modern fiction is any- 
thing but — it is hashed and re- 
hashed actual experience dressed 
up to look like fiction. But too 
many of us are "sensitive" and de- 
mand the word science be tacked 
in front of our fiction. I think this 
affectation has hurt us more than 
anything else. Recent movies and 
TV programs have been ruined be- 
cause of the label "science fiction" 
when a slightly different accent and 
the removal of this label would 
make delightful entertainment. 
Playhouse 90 has put on at least 
one very good program in this 
category and didn't once use a title. 



118 



lead, or spoken word to indicate 
that it was anything but good in- 
teresting fiction. It went over 
beautifully with the general public 
who would ordinarily shun science 
fiction. 

As to IF, I like the illustrations 
from the cover to the little trade- 
mark of Science Briefs. I like the 
choice of stories, the lead captions 
and the variety. I like the number 
of new writers that you feature. 
The old ones are good; but how 
nice to read a fresh approach occa- 
sionally. 

The paper is excellent and gives 
a sharp letter, the lines of type are 
even and very rarely contain a mis- 
placed letter. In short, IF is a pro- 
fessional magazine. 

—Waldo T. Boyd 
Orangevale, Calif. 

There are so many anomalies in 
science, evidence points out that 
science may not be science after all. 
At least a system can be constructed 
wherein all phenomena are de- 
pendent upon the subconscious 
agreements of individuals, rather 
than upon natural laws. In this 
view, we would see more magic 
than science. But if anything con- 
ceivable is possible, the social effect 
of science fiction is to literally cause 
the creation of new things. The 
new thing must first be imagined, 
then accepted by a number of per- 
sons, then it can be built. In science 
fiction we dare to imagine. 

Explorations in parapsychology 
are easily accomplished in the me- 
dium of science fiction. If one man 
ever knew the future, then it fol- 
lows that the future can be known. 



If one accident prone can cause a 
series of accidents, then it follows 
that accidents are caused. If one 
astrologer can predict one true 
event, it follows that there is a rela- 
tion between planetary cycles and 
human events. But if any qf these 
things work because of belief in 
them, we can engender belief 
through familiarity and acceptance. 
A correlation of one is not useful, 
however, but you can determine if 
a correlation greater than one ex- 
ists. What other agency would even 
look for such correlation? Very few 
indeed! 

— Paul Mitman 
Detroit, Mich. 

Game Preserve was quite an en- 
joyable story, but Rog Phillips' 
genetics seem a little deficient. His 
assertion that }4 of the population 
would be morons if they were not 
weeded out suggests that he is pos- 
tulating a recessive anomaly. Fine, 
but then he comes up with "nor- 
mal" being the recessive in the 
preserves. And if this is due to a 
recessive "suppressor" gene which 
seems the only plausible simple 
hypothesis, then the impurity of the 
preserve could not be so simply 
weeded out as indicated! A good 
story, and I liked it; but Rog 
should check a few references next 
time. 

— Nick Sturm 
Austin, Texas 

I read science fiction because 
there are no limits to the plots. 
Mystery stories and westerns are 
always controlled and stereotyped. 
The hero undergoes several hard- 



119 



ships, falls in love with the closest 
beautiful girl, solves his problem of 
either murder or bank robbery or 
range rustling and the book is 
ended. Science fiction on the other 
hand cannot be stereotyped. There 
can be no limitations; you have no 
idea what the story will be like un- 
til you have begim to read it; and 
therefore it's an adventure in itself. 
IF has the best reproduction, the 
fiction is always well written, the 
artists are the best in the field. The 
departments couldn't be better. 
The quiz is geared to an intelligent 
adult and not a teenage reader as 
most of them are. Science Briefs are 
done with a scientific atmosphere 
but can be understood by a fairly 
intelligent layman. The editorial 



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is the most interesting in the field 
since it covers a broad number of 
subjects, and the letter column is 
exceptional since all the letters say 
something. 

IF boosts my contention that 
most readers are completely intelli- 
gent adults. 

— Bill Meyers 

Chattanooga, Tenn. 

K.V. Fletcher in his diatribe 
against time machines has placed 
himself in what to ray mind is a 
rather ridiculous position. He 
wants us to understand, that the 
only time machine that will ever 
exist will be man's own mind 
which will carry him backward into 
his own memories and no further. 
He describes the author's uses of 
enormous iiows of energy etc. to 
put man into the future — all be- 
cause he himself is so dogmatic 
that he will not accept such a pos- 
sibility. I don't know how old he 
is, but I wonder if he wasn't one 
of those benighted souls who 
scorned the horseless carriage, and 
made Fulton suffer under jibes and 
jokes before he proved the worth 
of his steamboat. Can his mind en- 
compass Man's reaching the stars? 
Or even closer to home, an arti- 
ficial satellite? 

Well then, why not a time ma- 
chine? 

— A. Pasquine 
Metuchen, N. J. 



The satellite question has been 
answered. However, time and space 
are two different apples, though 
relative. But first, what is time? 



120 



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